Whilst West Buckland School, in North Devon, has received overwhelming praise for its speedy response to the coronavirus and indeed has just been awarded “Most Inspirational Day and Boarding School – South West”, by Corporate Vision magazine, Headmaster, Phillip Stapleton strongly believes that schools themselves should be allowed by make their own decisions about when and how to open.
In a recent whole-school survey, 93% of West Buckland parents were happy with the level of online learning their children receive. Within days of lock down the school were running with a full timetable of live online lessons, with students and staff having already been trained on Microsoft Teams. Since then staff have enjoyed finding new and creative ways to deliver their curriculum.
One teacher described it as “Business as usual, in a parallel universe!”.
The aptitude and enthusiasm of the majority of the students to the new challenges of home learning has impressed the staff. “Some of our students have come out of their shells and revealed treasures of ability and resilience!”
In turn, parents have praised “the creativeness and interaction from all the lessons” and appreciate the efforts of the staff. “Thank you for all you’ve done for our kids,” said one parent, whilst another said, “It has been very reassuring that so much has been put in place to support the children academically and emotionally.”
The implementation of a number of financial support packages, together with an Emergency Fund, have also helped families with fee-payment throughout this difficult period.
Whilst Mr Stapleton is delighted by how well the home learning programme has been going, he feels that the government needs to change its approach to the reopening of schools:
“Rushing schools into getting all their pupils back to school is unwise. Schools are best placed to decide how many pupils they can safely care for and will want to prioritise those with academic or wellbeing needs. Schools should be given the authority and autonomy to make this decision.”
“At West Buckland we understand both sides of the argument and desperately want our pupils back in school but not yet. For us, and this is not the case for all schools, we feel that there is little to be gained at present with 70% of our home learning being delivered through live lessons. However, with our Year 1s and 6s back in and some Year 10 and 12s joining us over the coming weeks, we have proved that we are a safe school and will be safe to open to all in September.”