Our reporter was home schooled for a day...what was it like?

Blended learning, mixing real time teaching and online teaching; Toby Whalen's class at Mile Cross P

Blended learning, mixing real time teaching and online teaching; Toby Whalen's class at Mile Cross Primary School. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Copyright: Archant 2021

It is 8am and I am having breakfast before going to school: I have my pens, pencils, workbooks, sign-ins for online maths and English and I am ready for assembly.

Assembly, in this case, is imaginary as I am joining Mile Cross Primary virtually as a home-schooler rather than in real life, where key workers’ children are being taught.

Blended learning, mixing real time teaching and online teaching; Toby Whalen's class at Mile Cross P

Blended learning, mixing real time teaching and online teaching; Toby Whalen's class at Mile Cross Primary School. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Copyright: Archant 2021

I will upload my work throughout the day to online platform Showbie and in turn receive feedback from my teachers Mark Pinner and Hannah Barrett.

It’s been several decades since I was a Year Four pupil at Costessey Junior School and crucially, I am not seated next to my best friend Louise who I would 100 per cent be copying from if the going gets tough. Let the lessons begin.

9am: Joe Wicks: PE with Joe It’s 9am and I am on YouTube staring in horror at an unnaturally cheery man who is asking me to jog on the spot while answering questions about Geography.

Joe Wicks offers free online PE lessons three times a week and today, I am joining in.

Endlessly encouraging and filled with the kind of exuberance I struggle to muster at any point, let alone 9am on a Wednesday morning, Joe guides us through a frankly savage routine which involves star jumps, frog jumps, lunges, burpees, sit-ups and something that even he admits ‘burns’, the duck walk.

Most Read

It is horrific. Just as I bow out at the second round of sit-ups lest I see my breakfast for the second time in an hour, Joe reads out a message he’s received from someone in their 70s who is exercising at home and I am instantly ashamed.

I upload a screen shot of Joe to Showbie, with one word: “brutal”.

9.30am: Break.

A work sheet showing maths that involves converting minutes to seconds and minutes to hours

Maths work for Stacia Briggs' home-schooling day - Credit: Stacia Briggs

9.50am: Maths. Always my Achille’s Heel at school, it took me two attempts to pass my maths GCSE and I remember as a child protesting that I would never, ever use algebra in my adult life. As a 40-something, I can confirm that this is true, but no one likes a know-it-all and anyway, today is about learning the time and looking at the 24-hour clock. Frankly, this is a stroke of luck, being one of the few areas of mathematics I have mastered.  I upload my work to Showbie.

Teacher’s verdict: “Well done for your hard work, Stacia. I’m very impressed. I’m going to give you a house point.” Mr Pinner has also left me a voice note: “Hello Stacia, well done…I’m very impressed that you’ve been using a ruler to draw your lines. You’ve clearly mastered this, so perhaps I need to set you some extension activities.” Curses.

10.30am: Guided reading. This is lovely. We listen to a chapter from Bill’s New Frock, by Anne Fine, read by teacher Hannah Barrett. Miss Barrett has a lovely Irish accent and I could listen to her voice all day. What is not quite as relaxing is our task: “As you listen, make a list of any exciting verbs (action words) you hear.” I had to REALLY think about this and, seeing as writing is how I have made a living for 26 years, I am not proud of that fact in the slightest.

Teacher’s verdict: “Excellent work. You have listened really carefully. A merit for each word!” I won’t lie: I had expected a house point after mentioning a past participle. Perhaps show-boating isn’t encouraged.

10.50am: Break. I have decided that adult working days would be FAR better with such regular break-times.

A picture of a story map

Stacia Briggs' story map featuring a Certificate 18 elf - Credit: Stacia Briggs

11.10am: English. I have to read a story and then look in detail at the last paragraph before creating a ‘story map’, which is basically the action told in pictures. I have 40 minutes to create a woeful set of illustrations which very vaguely tell a story about a boy wizard (not that one) and an elf. The elf I draw is the stuff of nightmares, a swivel-eyed festive zombie with razor teeth – my cloak isn’t bad, though.

Teacher’s verdict: “Great story map, Stacia. I love your efficient looking elf – he looks like he enjoys a check list.”

Cupcakes covered in white frosting and winter-themed blue, silver and white sprinkles

'Winter' themed cupcakes for a day of Mile Cross Primary School's online learning - Credit: Stacia Briggs

12pm: Lunch/cupcake challenge. Despite the clear instruction that I should only make cakes if I have finished my work, I head to the kitchen to create cupcakes with a ‘winter theme’. It is at this point that living with a chef comes into its own. My cupcakes have every single wintery sprinkle known to mankind thrown on them – they practically whistle ‘Let it Go’.

Teacher’s verdict: “These look delicious. Your house is clearly well-stocked with ingredients.” Rumbled.

1pm: History: I watch a video about the history of the River Nile and then create a diagram that shows eight facts about why the river was so important to Ancient Egyptians.

Teacher’s verdict: “Great work. I’m really impressed by the research you’ve done – I hope you gained some knowledge from doing this activity.” I did!

An online conversation between a teacher and a student on online platform Showbie

A live conversation between student and teacher on online platform Showbie - Credit: Stacia Briggs

1.40pm: Times Tables Rockstars:  I have it on good authority that this app is so fun that children feel as if they’re playing a video game. My Rockstar name is ‘Groovy Baker’ and within minutes I am failing masterfully at my times tables. I never did learn them – other than the easy ones – and it doesn’t take long before I am accessing parts of my childhood I haven’t visited for years, namely the bits where I didn’t pay attention because I was so very, very disengaged. TT Rockstars would have made things better, maybe.

2pm: Art: I’ve just realised I failed to do this. My task was to create a Forest School collage from pictures and natural materials – I hope I don’t lose my house point.

Student’s verdict: I was SO impressed with the engaging, interactive content and the constant monitoring meant I knew whether or not I was on track. As a parent, I can see what a challenge this would be while working and with more than one child, but there is clearly help on hand. I still hate maths but I’m not too old to be excited about being awarded a house point. THANK YOU Mile Cross Primary!

Deputy head Toby Whalen at Mile Cross Primary School. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Deputy head Toby Whalen at Mile Cross Primary School. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Copyright: Archant 2021

Toby Whalen, Deputy Headteacher writes: 

“Mile Cross Primary School has always tried to use computers and IT in creative and innovative ways to enhance learning.

Like all schools, the first lockdown in March 2020 meant we had to think differently about how to engage children and support parents at home. Initially this was through weekly work packs that were collected from school or that staff delivered by hand if parents were unable to leave the house.

Mile Cross Primary School. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mile Cross Primary School. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Copyright: Archant 2021

The school has used Tapestry as an online portfolio to communicate and share learning with parents particularly in the Early Years and Key Stage 1 and Class Dojo in Key Stage 2 for a number of years. These encrypted platforms have allowed teachers and parents to see the real learning both at school and home.

It has meant instead of the standard question from a parent to a child, asking them what they have done that day being met with the response ‘nothing’, the parent has been able to start a conversation: “I see you’ve been learning about money at school today…”

As lockdown eased and we welcomed children back to school in September we very much embraced how ‘blended learning’ could be used in classrooms using Showbie.

This has meant that children in Key Stage 2 have often been working directly with an iPad next to them to enhance their learning. It also meant teachers became increasingly proficient in using IT and children could continue working at home and gain important feedback.

In the recent lockdown, the move to remote learning for those children has been easier as the children had been regularly using the learning platforms in class.

However, we need to recognise this is certainly not possible for all families due to the limiting factors of not having suitable laptops or internet at home.

Despite being able to distribute a number of laptops with internet access to some families and recent offers of free data from some mobile providers, in a recent survey of 270 of our parents 17 per cent shared that they were unable to access online learning and 77 per cent noted that they would like to continue receiving the weekly work packs that the school provides.

Andrew Hardman, Specialist Resource Base (SRB) lead at Mile Cross Primary School, teaches online. Pi

Andrew Hardman, Specialist Resource Base (SRB) lead at Mile Cross Primary School, teaches online. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Copyright: Archant 2021

Learning at home with parents has clearly been a challenge for all on top of the anxieties that we all face in the midst of a global pandemic. We recognise the amazing job parents have done and continue to do while often having to work from home and balance other responsibilities.

We try to stress to our parents that a little bit of learning each day is better than nothing and nothing quite beats reading a book together on the sofa.

Resources for parents who are home-schooling

·      BBC Bitesize: CBBC broadcasts three hours of primary school programmes from 9am each weekday while BBC2 shows two hours of curriculum-supporting programmes every weekday. BBC Bitesize also has lots of easy-to-follow lessons for home learning www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize

·      The Story Starter: randomly generates story ideas used by writers of all ages www.thestorystarter.com

·      Fun Fonix: a warehouse of resources that help you move through phonics rules – www.funfonix.com

·      For videos on maths, science and English perfect for high school children plus life skills such as conflict resolution and respect, visit www.brainpop.com

·      YouTube’s Free School has videos on a vast range of subjects that vary from a minute to 10 minutes long. Perfect for KS1, KS2 and KS3 children www.youtube.com/user/watchfreeschool/playlists

·      WowScience has lots of fun science-based resources for primary age children www.wowscience.co.uk or try My GCSE Science www.youtube.com/user/myGCSEscience for older students

·      PE with Joe Wicks streams three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (wear fancy dress!) at 9am www.youtube.com/channel/UCAxW1XT0iEJo0TYlRfn6rYQ

·      Author and illustrator Rob Biddulph films art lessons where children can draw along live on Saturdays at 10am and with archive lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10am www.youtube.com/c/robbiddulph72

·      For GCSE geography reserouces, head to www.internetgeography.net while for history, head to The British Musueum’s home-schooling resource at www.britishmuseum.org/learn/schools/home-educators

·      For a full list of free online resources to help parents home school, visit www.parentkind.org.uk/Parents/Free-learning-resources-for-children