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Last updated on 24 April 2020
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These schools and trusts are using digital education platforms in different and creative ways to enable pupils to learn and staff to work together effectively, even while remote. See whether one of these approaches would work for you, whether you're new to using these platforms or looking to do more.

Daily 'live' English and maths lessons for years 10 and 11, with G Suite for Education

At Academies Enterprise Trust some of the 21 secondary academies were using Google Classroom (part of G Suite for Education) before the lockdown, but for many it was brand new.

Across the trust, staff set up 15,000 new 'Classrooms' in 2 weeks. They also bought 9,000 Chromebooks (a £2 million investment) to make sure all disadvantaged pupils had access to digital learning.

The schools use G Suite for Education to:

  • Deliver a programme of live English and maths lessons for all year 10 and 11 pupils, using Google Meet: the trust's English and maths leads teach these, not individual class teachers, and they cover GCSE content
  • Deliver these lessons at the same time each day: lessons go ‘live’ at 10am and 11.15am and are recorded so pupils can watch them in their own time. Pupils add these lessons to their Google Calendar to remind them to attend
  • Set work to be done before and during lessons: for the in-lesson resources, teachers use Google Forms to set up questions for pupils to answer
  • Provide resource hubs for pupils in other years, and their families: the trust’s message to parents of pupils in years 7 to 9 is “this is distance learning, not home schooling” and “we’re here to take the pressure off - just do what you can". For these families it has curated a list of online resources to choose from in its ‘parent hub’, created via Google Sites and linked to from the trust website

See how all this looks in the trust’s Virtual Learning Academy, where you'll also find timetables and guidance for parents, teachers and staff.

Subject content co-ordination and a normal timetable, with G Suite for Education

Windsor Academy Trust, which includes 4 secondary schools, was also already using Google Classroom before lockdown, so found moving to remote learning relatively easy. 

The secondary schools use G Suite for Education to:

  • Set their curriculum centrally: the subject director curates and quality assures the curriculum content for each subject, and all staff have access to curriculum overviews and resources in a shared Google Drive. Individual class teachers still set the day-to-day learning for their classes
  • Share responsibility across colleagues: every teacher is assigned to their usual classes, with 'Classrooms' set up in Google Classroom, but 3 other staff are assigned as 'administrators' too. These are the school subject director, trust-wide subject director and a ‘buddy’ teacher (who can cover in case the teacher is absent)
  • Run their normal school timetable: all pupils are expected to log in to Google Classroom daily, and complete assignments during their normal lesson times. Staff on the senior leadership team ring families if children haven't logged on in the morning; by week 2 of running remotely, all pupils were logged on each day, on time
  • Assign activities to pupils to complete each day (in the 'Classwork' section of Google Classroom), for all subjects. Pupils tick ‘Hand in’ or ‘Done’ when they have completed an activity, and the teacher gets a notification
  • Set pupils questions to answer on each activity: you can set these up to auto-mark so teachers don't have to mark them – they just receive notification of the pupil's results
  • Schedule work for pupils in advance, to appear in the 'Classwork' section of Google Classroom on a specific date, so pupils don't finish all their work too quickly
  • Link to pre-recorded video lessons: teachers use Screencastify to record teaching videos so pupils can hear their teacher's voice and see their screen, but not see them. (This trust has decided to pre-record lessons, rather than stream them 'live', for safeguarding reasons)

Take a look at the trust’s online learning guidance for pupils and staff here

Preparing pupils for adult life and supporting staff wellbeing, with Office 365 Education

The Portsmouth Academy is part of The Thinking Schools Academy Trust. Trust staff were already using Microsoft Teams (part of Office 365 Education) for video-conference meetings, but teachers hadn’t started using it with pupils until the coronavirus outbreak.

“Technological change is hard” says Natalie Sheppard, director of education, “but because we’d already launched it to staff, it was easier to filter down to pupils, and now everyone is using it.”

The Portsmouth Academy uses Microsoft Teams to:

  • Teach and record live lessons, without too much pressure: for every 5 hours that teachers would usually teach, they now pre-record or stream live at least 1 lesson
  • Allow pupils to interact with their teacher: pupils always have their camera and microphone switched off during live teaching, but they type questions in the chat function and their teacher will answer the questions as they come in. Teachers turn off the chat function between pupils 
  • Complete work and show it to their teacher, live: pupils can turn their camera on to hold up their work for the teacher and others to see, as part of a live lesson
  • Assign work and submit it: teachers set assignments to classes and pupils on the platform, and pupils upload their completed work
  • Adapt the timetable and keep it flexible: the school has heavily adapted its timetable to ease the pressure on teachers. It highlights whether lessons will be live or pre-recorded so that pupils and families can plan their time accordingly
  • Keep staff connected and support wellbeing during this isolating time: departments meet online every week, and staff have 1-to-1 meetings with line managers via Teams too. Support and collaboration can continue just as it would in school
  • Prepare pupils for adult life: one of the reasons the school uses Teams is that it’s similar to an adult working environment. It’s part of the school's digital strategy to “create digital citizens who will thrive in the 21st century”

They've also used Microsoft Forms to create a 'get in touch' form on their school website, so that parents can ask for help if they’re having issues with logging in. You can see this form and more information on the school's approach on its Digital Learning page.

Staff collaboration and audio feedback for pupils, with Office 365 Education

This has turned into a CPD opportunity - everyone's embraced the technology and is even experimenting with it

Pupils and staff at Ribblesdale High School were also already using Microsoft Teams, but not to the extent that they do now.

"This has actually turned into a CPD opportunity" says assistant headteacher Paul Edge. "We would never have got all staff using this before, but now everyone's embraced the technology and is even experimenting with it – and it's really helped to keep us connected.

The school uses Office 365 Education to: "

  • Maintain a sense of normality for staff: they meet for a staff briefing twice a week, as they normally would in school, via a Teams video call. Having face-to-face contact as a team helps them feel connected and boosts morale
  • Keep staff collaboration going: staff communicate via messages in their ‘contingency channel’ within Teams, where the senior leadership team (SLT) posts anything that all staff need to be aware of. They also share documents and desktops, to carry on all their normal processes
  • Set pupils general activities with optional live teaching: teachers use Teams to post activities, a task or general instructions for every class they’d normally teach, on the day they'd normally teach those pupils
    • They don’t replicate a strict timetable as the SLT thinks this would be overwhelming for pupils and staff, some of whom are caring for young children at home
    • Some teachers choose to go further, with live online lessons once or twice a week (often at the beginning of the week or at the start of a new unit of work) or setting assignments through Teams, but this is up to them  
  • Give pupils audio feedback, so they can hear their teacher’s voice: pupils use OneNote, Microsoft's digital notebook app, to record their work, and staff use this to embed audio feedback. This feedback is mainly encouragement and praise, rather than formal marking, and helps keep a connection between staff and pupils. "Boys especially seem to respond to audio feedback", says Paul
  • Blend with other apps and features: teachers also use Learning by Questions (a curriculum questions app), Flipgrid (an education app that allows pupils to create vlogs) and digital worksheets. They link to or embed these within Teams, as they work well alongside it - "it's all about creating minimal extra work for the educator and making these tools work for them"

 Learn more about the school's approach on its elearning pages.

Yet to decide which digital education platform to use? Use this feature comparison to see how G Suite for Education and Office 365 Education can serve your needs.

Or, ready to apply for DfE-funded support with setting up your chosen platform? Apply directly via our digital education platform hub.

Sources

Many thanks to the following for sharing their approaches with us so we could share them with you:

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