A Worksop school that is home to international students is setting the bar high when it comes to remote learning, having carried out more than 4,000 online lessons across four different time zones during lockdown and beyond.
Worksop College, set in 330 acres of woodland just outside the town centre on the A57 in north Notts, is an independent, broad-ability school with a rich 125 year history educating students from year 7-13, while its feeder school, Ranby House, provides wrap-around education for children aged 2-11.
The school was embracing online learning across the board before the pandemic struck, which meant it was a seamless transition for the students to learn from home when lockdown started – even for one of its pupils in Cyprus who hasn’t missed a single lesson despite his teachers being more than 2,000 miles away.
15-year-old Colin Worthen is a full-time boarder at the school, so when lockdown happened in March he flew home to Cyprus to be with his parents.
He said: “I’ve really enjoyed all of my lessons throughout lockdown and the fact they’re being done online doesn’t affect how much I’ve learn at all. I’ve carried on with my GCSE syllabus for all my subjects, even practical ones like science, and I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything at all.
“The only difference is that my day starts a little later as there is a 2-hour time difference with the UK – but I don’t mind that!”
Headmaster at Worksop College and Ranby House Dr. John Price said the fact that the school, which offers boarding as well as day places, is home to several international students meant it was prepared for a remote learning scenario well before other schools and academies.
He said: “We could see what was coming in the early months of this year, so we very swiftly ensured that all of our students from year 4 upwards were trained in how to use Microsoft Teams and we introduced our youngest pupils to Zoom as it allowed them to see lots of their friends’ faces on the screen.
“When lockdown was announced, we were ready. That very Monday all lessons went live online, all feedback and mark books were accessible online and of course all resources too, many of which we already used digitally, such as text books.
“It wasn’t just a case of making do. We were and still are using the technology at our fingertips innovatively to ensure each and every one of our students gets the individual, tailored education they deserve. For example, during one practical Biology lesson I was teaching recently, our pupil in Cyprus, Colin, could momentarily see the experiment better via Teams than the students at the back of the classroom, so they logged on to Teams too in order to have as good a vantage point as Colin!”
Dr. Price added that his overarching concern once remote learning become the temporary ‘norm’ was for every student and parent to feel that they had structure in their day.
He said: “I keenly wanted structure for all of our pupils and parents, because we all immediately, overnight, found ourselves in a situation we’ve never experienced or expected – and I knew that structure was vital to everyone’s sense of wellbeing. The timetable was maintained, the lessons weren’t at all disrupted and our assemblies brought everyone together once a week. I’m extremely proud of how the teachers and pupils have worked together throughout this very unsettling time to ensure our sense of community was never lost.”
Reception teacher at Ranby House, Adam Newton, brought his creative skills to the fore to keep his very young class engaged during lockdown, making his own YouTube clips and kinesthetic lessons from scratch.
He said: “Reception is perhaps the hardest year group to teach remotely, purely because of how young the children are. They didn’t associate home with school and so I had to think of ways to bring the lessons to life through the screen.
“I made short YouTube clips for phonics and maths lessons which they could watch any time and basically got into the character of a CBBC presenter in order to bring as much fun and energy to the children as possible! Thinking creatively was key – for example I did a video where there were two of me, throwing a 3D object back and forth and in others I used puppets.”
Adam also held a weekly parent-pupil quiz via Zoom during lockdown and sent suggestions for tactile learning such as having a star gazing session at home and coming to the Zoom call the next day with observations.
Dr Price added: “As the pandemic continues, with no guarantee that schools won’t have to shut again, we feel fully prepared for all eventualities at Worksop College and Ranby House. It’s a credit to our teachers, parents and students that we’ve navigated such a chaotic and unsettling time so smoothly and I’m incredibly proud of the entire school community.”