How educator development helped us transform remote learning

When lockdown 1.0 struck and the sector was filled with a sense of uncertainty, Rachel Sewell stepped up to the unenviable task of mobilising 13 senior leaders across five schools. The aim was to standardise approaches, so no pupil would miss out on essential learning.

Here she explains how she went back to the drawing board, created a mission plan from scratch, and poured her team’s focus into distance learning and effective CPD.

As schools closed last year, a colleague and I were tasked with leading a group of 13 senior leaders from the five secondary schools in our multi academy trust to work on developing a collaborative approach to remote learning, initially for year 10 and 12 students. It was a challenge because the schools are geographically and contextually very different and, as such, had different existing virtual learning environments with varying degrees of functionality and varying levels of student and parent engagement.

We got a commitment from everyone to work on the project for two hours per day for six weeks, and asked them to read and respond to three articles on distance learning ahead of our first meeting on Microsoft Teams. From there we co-constructed a mission statement and designed milestones for the project, before sharing these with headteachers and our CEO for feedback and agreement.

1 . Understanding how students access lessons

We selected Microsoft Teams as our platform, and began by gathering data on student access to technology via a survey and follow-up phone calls, ready to procure devices for students in need, with an initial focus on year 10, 12 and vulnerable students.

We then formed five working parties each with a different focus: responsive teaching, curriculum for all, IT, sixth form, and community and celebration. Each working party began by gathering a picture of existing best practice in our schools, and was tasked with designing training or advice, ready to feedback to the whole group on a bi-weekly basis.

2. Adapting the curriculum

We quickly implemented a reduced three-to-four lesson timetable for students, which mirrored in-school curriculum weighting, and designed an interim simplified lesson structure for schools who needed a clearer system quickly. Building on our schools’ existing knowledge of Rosenshine’s ‘Principles of Instruction’ and further shared reading and research, we co-constructed a six-point lesson structure.

"Our pilot teachers responded well to training and designed high-quality example lessons across different subjects."

3. Multiplatform lessons

After much discussion, we opted to design pre-recorded voice-annotated PowerPoint lessons, which culminate in a carefully designed quiz to monitor student engagement and understanding, and take their views on the lesson.

4. Testing and adjusting

We designed and delivered training (on our pedagogical approach, Microsoft Teams and peer review of example lessons) to volunteer pilot teachers in each school.

Our pilot teachers responded well to training and designed high-quality example lessons across different subjects, which could be used as we developed subject-specific cross-school training. Their challenges and questions helped to re-shape training approaches and resources, and anecdotally, they are beginning to share ideas and best practice with staff beyond the pilot groups, generating ‘buzz’ in our schools.

Teacher Education Fellows

Rachel is an alumna on our Teacher Education Fellows programme.

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