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Coronavirus and schools – The positive changes we’re keeping once things ‘go back to normal’

We celebrate some of the successes that have emerged out of challenge of the last year in education

  • Coronavirus and schools – The positive changes we’re keeping once things ‘go back to normal’

We’ve all had to change the way we do things during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many teachers have completely altered the way they work to take into consideration bubbles, isolating children, staff shortages and periods of lockdown. However, change isn’t necessarily always a bad thing.

The following schools, all part of the Diocese Of Ely MAT, were forced to change how they operate but have discovered that, actually, it might just be a better way of doing things…


“Our timetable has changed”

School: Bury C of E Primary
Location: Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
Number of pupils: 170+

We’ve modified our teaching and learning time by altering the timetable for Y5 and Y6 so there is more time to focus on English and maths during the morning, with teachers building in cross-curricular opportunities in all lessons.

For example, we’ve been using historical texts in English lessons that lead directly to our topic, enabling children to develop a deeper understanding of the historical context while applying it within their English lessons.

Morning sessions used to run from 9.15am to 12.15pm with a 15 minute break at 10.30am. They now run from 9am to 1pm with a 15 minute break at 11am. This change has given teachers and TAs time to thoroughly assess prior knowledge, teach and then extend within the same session.

Children complete pre-assessment tasks, undertake mini assessments (verbal, written and computer tasks) and use lots of discussion throughout lessons. This has assisted us in closing gaps in learning, despite the challenges faced by pupils being out of school for such a long time during lockdown.

One of our Y5 pupils said that at first they were worried about the morning session being longer, but they’ve actually really enjoyed it and feel they have more time to get stuck into their work which has helped them with their understanding. Because this daily structure has worked so well, we intend to keep it going.

Emma Heanes, headteacher


“Teachers are training each other”

School: Guyhirn C of E Primary
Location: Wisbech, Cambridgeshire
Number of pupils: 70+

We’ve amended our strategy so that training now comes from classroom teachers, rather than just from senior leaders. After delivering training sessions, staff are paired together so they can observe each other and give written and verbal feedback.

This has helped teachers to support their colleagues’ development and knowledge and has ensured a consistency to teaching across the school.

Because we are a small school with mixed-aged classes, we feel that all staff need to have a thorough understanding of progression across year groups. This approach has increased teachers’ skills and confidence, meaning we now have the flexibility to allocate staff to different classes if needed.

This strategy has been so beneficial in supporting and engaging staff in improving standards as one strong team. We intend to continue embedding these new ways of working going forward.

Karen Milnthorpe, headteacher


“We’ve made community connections”

Schools: All Saints Academy/St Martin at Shouldham C of E Primary Academy
Location: Stoke Ferry/Shouldham, Norfolk
Number of pupils: 100+/220+

We are two nurturing schools that have worked together to raise community spirits during these unprecedented times. In fact, Covid-19 has bought our school communities closer than ever.

During the first lockdown, pupils, families and staff from both schools worked together to create exciting videos. These were then shared around the community to create a feeling of connection. We danced to Is This The Way to Amarillo? and tried the Matilda challenge, as well as other popular video trends.

Parents said that creating the videos made pupils feel that they were part of a team.

When we returned to school in September we continued to stay connected with our partner school by partaking in daily worship sessions via Zoom, connecting both schools as well as children’s families. At the end of each session we opened all of the doors and windows and sang.

We could hear the community joining in which was amazing and lifted everyone’s spirits.

We’ve also made connections with a local care home and have shared letters, photos and videos to support residents’ wellbeing. Pupils love sharing their amazing work and information about their extra-curricular activities. Recently we shared our celebrations for Diwali with the residents and they sent a video in return.

It’s a new partnership that we’re planning to nurture over the coming months.

Harriet Hurrell, KS1 teacher and RE and phonics partnership subject leader

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