How Lodge Park in Corby has taken the private school approach to lockdown learning
The Corby school dived straight into online learning - and it's paying off
While lockdown learning for many has been a whirlwind of Joe Wicks and White Rose Maths, serious fears have been raised among education leaders that the gap between state and private schools has widened to an unimaginable gulf.
A survey by online education forum Teacher Tapp found that only six per cent of state schools had hosted a single live streamed lesson compared with 74 per cent of private schools. Some teaching unions advised members not to take part in live-streamed lessons unless there were exceptional circumstances because of potential safeguarding issues.
But at Corby's Lodge Park Academy, principal Carly Waterman decided that live streaming was the way to go and, the school seamlessly set up a varied curriculum of online lessons for all children.
"We just consulted with all our staff and and talked with them all and asked, well what actually is the safeguarding risk here?" said Ms Waterman.
"So, nobody does a lesson alone, there's always a second member of staff in with them and there's a standard slide at the beginning of every lesson about behaviour.
"The kids come into the lesson online and all they can do is take part via the chat function. Anything that they say that is inappropriate just doesn't get through. They can't talk and we can't see them. That was how we dealt with any potential issues, and we've not had any."
The school has offered online maths, English, science and PE lessons to year seven and eight pupils as well as other subjects via the Show My Homework app.
In year nine, there have been online maths, English, Science, History, French, PE and Media lessons.
And pupils in year ten have been offered the same lessons plus business, art and dance.
"It's been fantastic," said Ms Waterman, "We have worked our kids really hard and they've responded really, really well.
"They know that the morning lessons are at 10.30am and the afternoon lessons are at 1pm and there's an expectation they'll be there."
"We know who's attending and who's not and we can support those who we don't see attending regularly.
"We've phoned every child, every week, to the extent that some parents have asked us to stop phoning so much! We have a statutory responsibility to these kids, plus we actually really do want them to do well."
The approach is paying off.
"I get a list of those not attending every day and it's only usually about five or six kids," said Miss Waterman.
"If you don't attend you get a message and we offer help. These kids know that we really care about them and they are responding to that."
Ms Waterman says the school has given out a huge amount of laptops to those without adequate technology at home and have delivered paper copies of work to others who have needed it.
The school is holding a virtual online 'back garden' sports day today (Friday, June 26) and is hoping that pupils and their families will join in the fun. Events take place on the hour and pupils can submit their results via QR codes with the overall winners announced at the end of the day.
The school will be making the most of their five social media channels and pupils will be invited to share pictures and videos of their efforts.
Events include the cushion dash, the speed bounce, the standing long-jump, the peg throw and the egg and spoon race.
At noon there will also be a healthy cook-along with the teacher Ryan Storey using very simple, cheap ingredients.
Ms Waterman said: "They're all so excited about it.
"The keyworker children will be in the sports hall taking part and we've invited all the families at home to join in.
"It's a shame that we can't hold our traditional sports day this year but we hope people will remember this one."
Each week, Lodge Park has held its own Spirit Awards which mimic those held by Corby Council each year. Every Friday on Facebook, pupils who have been nominated by their parents during the week are given prizes to reward them for their efforts.
"As well as doing great work, kids have been nominated for all kinds of things like caring for elderly neighbours or delivering medicine," said Ms Waterman. "Every week we get about 45 nominations and the support has been overwhelming.
"We didn't ask for this situation and we miss the kids so much but, actually, it's been a great opportunity to build relationships with them.
"We've realised the importance of keeping communication with school going and of helping our families in all kinds of different ways."
The school has given out food parcels, has helped children struggling with the deaths of loved-ones and has provided support to those with mental health problems.
It also aimed to be flexible with the children of keyworkers and has had a group of around 20 in school throughout the crisis.
In 2019 Ofsted inspectors judged the school to be inadequate. And in July Ms Waterman, who grew up in the town and attended Kingswood School, took over the headship determined to make Lodge Park the great school it once was.
She said: "It's frustrating because if this hadn't have happened, Ofsted would already have been back to reinspect and I'm absolutely sure that we'd be out of special measures.
"This is a different school to the one they visited last year.
"We're really hoping they come back in September and see all the amazing changes we have made."