Ramsey Grammar School gives families an A+ after three months at the ‘chalkface’

The lockdown that resulted from the Coronavirus impacting on the island was sudden and significant. Students and teachers arrived in Manx schools on Monday 23rdMarch to find out the school would be closed for an indefinite period.  

Plans had to quickly be drawn up to maintain continuity of education for students and to accommodate the children of key workers whose parents worked in the medical and caring provision. Overnight, parents had to become teachers for 97%+ of the school’s population. They became the vital links in ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of their children but also now had the task of teaching them during the worrying and uncertain period.

At Ramsey Grammar School the parents and carers of the students rose to the challenge with distinction. Whilst at the same time, in many cases, trying to do their own paid work from home, they also undertook the role of educator for their own children using the online resources and drawing on the continued support offered from teachers virtually.  So parents and carers of the students of the school found themselves at the “chalkface”!

After 12 weeks of being educated at home by their parents and carers, students have now returned to school.  As staff prepared for their return, surveys have been conducted with colleagues, but also with the students themselves and their parents, to obtain feedback on the emergency remote learning provided by their teachers during lockdown, as well as on the experience of the students of being taught at home. 

The outcome of this review will be incorporated into the school’s new Emergency Remote Teaching Policy to be used in the unwished for event of another lockdown.

Although the experience of school closure was challenging and stressful for many people, feedback from parents suggests that there are many positives to be drawn from this period. It is very clear that parents have been very innovative and creative in the education they have provided for their children.  

In response to the request for feedback about the positive consequences of lockdown one family noted “… he learned more about life skills – such as housework, washing his clothes , cooking etc and he became more creative by focusing on an art project for his room and we all discovered that he is a really creative person (a hidden talent!).” Another parent said, … “whilst it was challenging home schooling it has also provided the opportunity to spend more time together and learn from each other.”

 The theme of enjoying family life was a common one including responses such as, ”… it has given us all time to reconnect as a family, create memories and evaluate priorities” and “…we enjoyed valuable family time together. Both my children enjoyed learning practical life skills from baking, cooking, housework, playing board games and reading. We made the best of this time and remained positive.”

The entire community of the island has been through a very difficult, worrying and entirely unprecedented time and the impacts of this will be felt for some time to come. 

Headteacher, Annette Baker, told B365: “Although this was a hugely unsettling and anxious time for everyone, the lockdown has shown us once again how important it is to have strong and supportive relationships between home and school.  I am very proud of how our parents and carers have responded to the challenge of taking on the role of teachers and hereby award them all with an A*!”

The importance of strong relationships between parents and school is captured in this comment from one RGS parent who completed the online learning survey – “… I always felt that if I needed something from school I could ask and you would help and that is what really makes a great school.  I choose to focus first and foremost on my child’s wellbeing and to acknowledge that he occasionally found the situation frustrating. I think he has come out of the situation with a greater appreciation of the general challenge others face and that you can adapt to any situation.” 

Deputy Headteacher, Graeme Corrin, said: “I would like to say we are grateful to all our parents and carers for the great job they have done for us.

“In the “new normal” of school life since the lifting of social distancing restrictions, we are now able to celebrate the resilience, engagement and positivity of all school staff, students and families across our island and we look forward with optimism as we emerge from this global crisis.”