CASE STUDY: A primary schools perspective of going into coronavirus lockdown
Our Lady Of Walsingham R C Primary School
As the parent support advisor and schools safeguard lead I work closely with all our vulnerable families or those families who just need a little extra support. As daily contact via school is not possible right now finding alternative ways to ensure these families are still fully supported has been a challenge. To tackle this issue, we offered some families a child care place in school during the COVID 19 closures whilst others families have been receiving a telephone call twice a week. These conversations are to make sure our families are keeping well and to ask if there is anything school can do to help them during this time. Having regular conversations and offering emotional support over the phone is proving successful so far as many parents say they appreciate just having that regular chat.
Ensuring our families had food was a huge concern as school dinners can sometimes be a child’s main meal of the day. Gloria our school cook has been preparing lovely lunch packs which myself and the head teacher have been delivering along with some Aldi supermarket vouchers and a lolly to keep spirits up. These visits have enabled us to check in with all our children and ensure they are all doing well. School meals are not normally provided to children during the holidays. However, to ensure families have food and to lighten the financial stress food parcels were purchased and delivered last week to every family in receipt of free school meals.
For the children still attending school fun activities have been offered along with some invaluable learning experiences. They have done many activities such as baking, arts, sports camps and planting in their new kitchen garden. Every child attending receives a free breakfast and lunch regardless of their entitlement. Our school continued to open over the Easter holidays to ensure all key worker children and vulnerable children were still cared for during over the holiday period.
We are still getting to grips with this new way of operating but will continue adapting our working ways to ensure all our children’s needs are being met. Our head teacher Claire McKinnon has pushed schools extremely tight budget to ensure children/families are fed, cared for and fully supported during this time of crisis!
What kind of innovations have you seen the school undertake since this started?
We had to react very quickly to identify those children who were key worker children and those who we deemed to be vulnerable. We have a number of children with additional needs who thrive under a routine and so had to take those into account too. Teachers prepared packs of work for 2 weeks to be taken home and then we officially shut.
we then moved into the ‘lockdown’ phase the following working day which saw all staff in with our essential children - which initially was 30 - we quickly put together a staff rota and split children into EYFS and ‘Rest of the School’ - although there are different activities everyday we are simply providing childcare. On site we have on average about 15 children and we have 4-5 teachers/TAs. Our teachers are onsite twice a week and TAs once a week.
It’s very difficult to work from home without taking the class with you so this has been a real challenge for us all! We have enrolled with the Virtual College and are doing some whole school training on line and teachers are set a piece of work on the Monday to be completed that week.
Staff meetings are held weekly using Zoom which has been interesting but it’s lovely to ‘meet up’ even virtually.
Our biggest challenge has been our Free School Meal families - we have over 70. Although the PM announced that there would be money available for FSM families through a National voucher scheme, nothing happened for the first 2 weeks. We are located opposite a well-known supermarket so we spent the first 10 days trying to source vouchers for there to send out to everyone - when they came myself and our Parent Support Advisor visited every child and handed chocolate eggs and vouchers over to them. Some of them were really struggling financially at this stage and were really grateful. Daily we asked for those who wanted a lunch to call and we delivered on average 9 packed lunches to them.
Our school, kitchen headed by Gloria Burnett have been incredible. Gloria helped me source food parcels on the last day of the Spring Term. I built these parcels up in school and then a dinner lady, Lyn Cunningham, really kindly then delivered them in her husband’s van! The same happened again during the school holidays.
We cannot pay our teachers extra hours so I insisted that they take 2 weeks break and asked for volunteers from the teaching assistants to help instead for additional hours. Many came forward and we are down to a skeleton staff of 2 TAs, 1 manager and 1 admin every day over the holidays.
The voucher scheme has started now though it is having a few major teething problems.
It’s been a great team effort and we are all having a good laugh!
Are there any practices you’ve seen that you’d like to carry forward beyond the pandemic?
Setting the homework electronically is great and I hope that will continue we have had a huge number of parents signing up to Twitter to follow the school and the school app has seen a huge increase as it is our key area of communication.
A huge success is that we have a 4year old boy with ASD who is absolutely thriving. He’s loving having the un of the school and being with older children and different staff. His language has really developed and he just seems so happy. He makes it worthwhile getting up every day.
All children attending and staff attending during lockdown can receive a free meal and this was introduced so that they don’t have to worry about shopping for lunch. This is definitely a practice for staff that I would like to see continue afterwards. Sharing food at a table even though social distancing has been a lovely moment each day.