4 things to think about as your school re-opens

blank Maddie Kilminster - 1 September, 2020

Category : Blog

4 things to think about as your school re-opens

Schools in the Arbor Community have been sharing with us some of their questions and thoughts about reopening this term. Some wonder how social distancing is going to work and if there will be more last minute changes to DfE guidance. Others worry about students adjusting back into full time schooling, and how to catch

Schools in the Arbor Community have been sharing with us some of their questions and thoughts about reopening this term. Some wonder how social distancing is going to work and if there will be more last minute changes to DfE guidance. Others worry about students adjusting back into full time schooling, and how to catch them up on lost learning.

However the “new normal” is going to look for your school this term, we’ve put together a list of the most important things you should be thinking about this week:

1. Go through your social distancing checklist

2. Prepare communications your parent and guardian community

3. Evaluate your catch up plan for students

4. Prioritise student and staff wellbeing 

Let’s break that down…

1. Go through your social distancing checklist

Depending on the size and layout of your school, and staff capacity, there’s no one solution to keeping students apart. Here are some top tips to consider:

Staggering

  • Stagger start and finish times for each bubble 
  • Create separate entrances/exits to school for each bubble
  • Discourage parents gathering outside school gates
  • Stagger lunch and break times or divide your dining hall into sections
  • Introduce a one-way system around school 

Timetabling

  • Leave gaps between lessons for cleaning
  • Can your students stay in one room and teachers move around?
  • Think about keeping seating plans consistent
  • Increase time spent outdoors. Can some lessons be outside?
  • Instead of gathering for assembly, live-stream to each classroom!

Hygiene

  • Encourage a routine of hand washing. Make it fun for younger children by giving them a stamp card!
  • Hand out hygiene packs containing sanitiser and essentials
  • Do you have an isolation room for anyone showing symptoms? 

Find out how Wykham Park Academy is planning their timetabling and social distancing this term here. Arbor schools – check out our Help Centre for lots of guidance on setting up flexible timetabling arrangements.

2. Prepare communications to your parent and guardian community

At the start of term, you’ll be sending your parents lots of updates on the new protocols you’re putting in place. But you should also think about how you can start strengthening relationships with your parents and guardians after their children have been at home for so long. Here are some more top tips:

  • Think about your tone of voice: Help parents feel secure that you’ve got things under control. Balance your practical updates with more positive, upbeat notices. For families who are anxious about the return to school, the NSPCC has some useful resources 
  • Choose the right communication method: A long email is not the best way to communicate everything. Think about using texts, social media, a virtual noticeboard or the Arbor App for different messages
  • Put together a clear communications plan: A comms calendar will help make sure parents get the info at the right time, plus your staff can plan their workload around it
  • Make sure you’ve got up-to-date contact details: Check you’ve got the right contact details for all your parents and guardians. Many schools find it helpful to send out a Google Form for parents to submit their contact information straight to the office

3. Evaluate your catch up plans for students

After months of disrupted learning, students’ progress is likely to be set back, with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged students hit the hardest. Getting learning back on track will be a big challenge, but here are some suggested first steps: 

a) Assess where students are at: You might want to run low-stakes assessments to identify gaps in students’ knowledge this term. The Key has some useful guidance on this and there’s a good school case study here

b) Compare with past performance: Once you have a baseline of performance post-lockdown, comparing this with prior attainment will give you a better sense of how students’ progress has been affected.

To save you time pulling together data, we’re giving schools free access to Arbor Insight reports this term, which will give you a full picture of your students’ progress over the last three years. The reports will be out soon but join the waiting list to be the first to get yours!

c) Identify your most at-risk students: In order to use the Government’s catch-up fund most effectively, it’s important to assess which of your students will benefit from it the most, such as vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. Bear in mind that the “vulnerable” category might include more students now as situations have changed. 

Arbor’s built-in reporting will allow you to quickly analyse the attainment of your key student groups across subjects, and instantly spot the biggest gaps. Our free performance reports will also help you understand how these attainment gaps have changed over time and the impact of socio-economic factors on your attainment.

4. Prioritise student and staff wellbeing 

It’s likely that students will be dealing with some difficult emotions when they return this term. Teachers might see some new and challenging behaviour in the classroom, but as Educational psychologist, Dr Rob Long, explains, it’s important to understand the anxiety causing the behaviour so they can best manage it. SecEd Magazine has some great guidance on how to support students’ mental health and wellbeing this term. 

Remember not to overlook your staff wellbeing; they’ll need support adjusting to the new term as well. Check in with your staff at the beginning of term and think about ways to allow staff to collaborate with and support each other. 

Arbor helps schools of all sizes work faster, smarter and more collaboratively, with intuitive tools designed to make a difference.

With over 1200 schools and trusts, we’re proud to be the UK’s fastest-growing MIS community. Join in and book a demo today, or contact us on tellmemore@arbor-education.com | 0208 050 1028.

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