Staff and students at St Cuthbert’s Catholic High School have turned to technology to navigate challenges faced as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Following the UK Government announcement in March that closed many school buildings and cancelled exams to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the secondary school in St Helens turned to innovative solutions to help students continue to learn from home and keep its community connected and supported.
Teaching staff packed the school’s online portal with resources and immediately came together to share ways to keep students engaged and their studies on track.
The department had previously used the platform to create private year groups, accessible by a unique code, where students could access resources and work assignments with set deadlines. The platform allows these to be submitted, marked and returned to students with feedback and stored securely online.
Social media also took centre stage, both in the delivery of lessons and response to assignments. The school’s Spanish department began using its dedicated Instagram channel to live-stream interactive lessons for each year group on a daily basis.
Adept at the use of smartphone technology and social media, students have also been submitting footage of work being done in their ‘classroom spaces’ at home, including one Year 7 student who filmed herself undertaking a science experiment.
Headteacher, Catherine Twist, said: “Having an innovative team and a resilient, well-rounded student body makes an enormous difference in times of crisis. We were already doing things differently, so we were much more prepared for the challenges we have faced in recent weeks.”
Although technology has been pivotal to St Cuthbert’s practical response to the coronavirus crisis, community has remained at its heart; from a rallying call to staff to congratulate students and parents with ‘Clap For Our Community’ on the last day of term – in a YouTube video that received more than 1,000 views shortly after being uploaded – to donating crates of freshly washed and sanitised eye protectors from the school’s science department to NHS hospitals.
“Technology has not only facilitated the practicalities of engaging our students at home. It has also supported the very human need to remain connected and be part of a community during what is a very unsettling and sometimes frightening time,” Catherine added. “It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the important role schools, their staff and students play in bringing people together.”
Catherine Twist said: “Our Year 7 students have already written to all Year 6 children who will be joining us to tell them what the school is like and how it is different to primary. We’re also exploring virtual lessons in place of Summer school and interactive videos and animations to replace in person meetings with their new form teacher. We want to find ways to welcome people into our school community despite physical distance”.