iPad learning comes into its own at Heathfield Community College during lockdown

26th June

With Heathfield Community College expanding its provision for some student years, we wondered how the college had coped with lockdown. We heard from headteacher Caroline Barlow: “Community is born from adversity and while we believe that our sense of community at the college has always been strong, it has certainly been tested and strengthened in the last three months. There are many things about lockdown we will be pleased to eventually leave behind, but it would be foolish to fail to celebrate the many significant achievements during this time and the strengths it has revealed.”

The ‘new normal’ at school

iPad learning came into its own with the challenge of remote learning for all class years

Staff and students had to be very adaptable when it became clear that the school had 48 hours to prepare for home learning of all year groups from 20th March. They ensured Year 11 and 13, who suddenly faced a summer without the opportunity to prove themselves in exams, were not disadvantaged even further by preparing leavers’ assemblies while also working with other years and staff for the realities of home learning. Fortuitously, from the first day of isolation, HCC was able to use their existing technology and systems. The students are used to iPad-based learning and the majority has iPads or they were able to borrow one in most cases; the school already operates a digital learning platform so students are used to using an online platform with some enhancements for remote learning. By the first day of home learning, the school was able to provide a full timetable of daily lessons with staff available online and weekly feedback.

Caroline went on to say: “The commitment of students to their studies in challenging circumstances has been impressive with the added enhancement of more interactive learning materials, audio/visual recorded lessons, at all times a full timetable of daily work was provided. We adjusted to parent feedback over the amount set, we track and monitor work completion, contact and support where we know there are issues. No student has been left to fall behind. Nationally there are emerging concerns about a widening of the disadvantaged gap, stories of four in 10 students not in regular contact, doing little to no work. In contrast, we know over 90% of our students are engaging with all or most of their set work. They have done a brilliant job at staying committed to their learning.”

Freya achieved a 5k

Fresh challenges to excel in more than education

The lockdown has presented far more challenges than just those around education. Students have shown commitment wider than their set work. With the ability to plan their work around other commitments or family responsibilities the young people have been magnificent caring for younger siblings or family members who were unwell; some have been lambing on farms or hatching ducks at home. Others have been volunteering, making masks and aprons for local hospitals when there was a shortage. They have been shown doing food deliveries, raising funds for the NHS, leading voluntary work in their local communities, campaigning for local youth facilities, and working as Duke of Edinburgh ambassadors.

“They are modeling the values they have learnt and both their families and the College are very proud of them.

“In this colossal contribution we would include the role of parents and adults within the Heathfield community. Through their volunteering we have been able to provide local solutions for free school meals and supplement the provision available to those families who need it most through help, support and food donations.  We opened on 23rd March for Key Worker children continuing almost every day since, including school holidays. Because of this we know how magnificent many of our parents have been: NHS workers; police; teachers; delivery drivers; food retail workers and care workers among many others. They have given up time with their children without a word of complaint – our key worker children are rightly extremely proud of their families,” commented Caroline Barlow, Headteacher.

Georgina made masks and aprons

The last three months have seen many students continuing to achieve in areas like the Silver Science Crest awards, poetry reading competitions, commendations, the publication of a student’s first novel, success in securing top level post 18 apprenticeship placements, preparing for international sporting competitions, running 100K in May and completing a couch to 5k.

Caroline concluded with a message of optimism: “We will come through this. We have every hope that we will be operating more fully in September and we can’t wait. We may be altered by the experience but the core of who we are and what we stand for does not change. Our goals and beliefs have not changed and will be the basis for our recovery and regrowth. There is always a risk of learning lost during this time, but education is a long journey, our students value it and thrive on it and our staff are exceptionally skilled at adapting and delivering high-quality teaching. The students have ingrained habits and values which have stood them in good stead to keep up with their work, but they also have the integrity and aspiration to see within and beyond a three-month lockdown the difference they can make. These are the young people that will genuinely change our future, they have been and will be inspiring. We are very proud of them.”

Amy elected to the youth parliament to represent East Sussex