April 2020. Working, learning, living from home

Tuesday March 31st, 2020

I hope this update finds you well and safe …and probably at home.

With social distancing and self isolation in full force now to slow the spread of the coronavirus, we’ve pulled together some information, ideas and inspiration so that life can go on during lockdown. Stay safe, sane and connected with these resources that will give you back a bit of structure during these times of extreme uncertainty.

Working, learning, living from home

The UK government has asked that all those who can, should work from home for the foreseeable future. In response, many schools have switched entirely to virtual teaching platforms, leaving just a skeleton staff team including cleaners, security and maintenance colleagues on site.

Although many independent schools, like most businesses across the world, would have had contingency plans in place, it must have still been a challenge to get ‘virtual schools’ up and running at such short notice.  The last week of term is being used to try and test the new ways of teaching. As one example, Eton is on top of the game, with its ‘Eton Virtual’ platform that includes academic, pastoral, co-curricular and community engagement strands, encouraging its students not to neglect any aspect of their education, plus a popular daily podcast from the Deputy Head.

Schools recognise that teaching and learning in this way is easier for some staff and students than others. Headmaster Simon Henderson acknowledges that some of his colleagues and the boys they’re supporting remotely ‘are inevitably more comfortable and confident in the virtual world than others’. As you and your family get to grips with this new, temporary way of life, do remember that some children will find it easier to embrace this move to online than others – especially at such a strange, unsettling time.

Embracing the technology

One positive amidst the challenges thrown up by the coronavirus is that the technology to keep us connected, sharing and learning is so readily accessible now. We talked about how independent schools in the UK are already embracing the technology to enable online education in our February blog. Now that capacity will be put to excellent use! Most students will already have their own laptops, some even issued by their school, and be used to the online tools that facilitate distance learning – such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Microsoft OneNote and cloud-based systems for managing assignments.

OneNote enables users to add text, tables, pictures and drawings – a tool complemented by OneNote Class Notebook, which allows teachers to organise lesson plans and course content in a digital notebook with ’personal workspace for every student, a content library for handouts, and a collaboration space for lessons and creative activities.’ (Find out more at: https://www.onenote.com/classnotebook)

Zoom can connect up to 100 people in a video-conferencing call, and is the prefect platform for classmates to stay connected with each other and their teachers in fully interactive lessons. There’s even a ‘break-out’ function so that smaller groups can split off in separate ‘virtual’ rooms then re-group. Lessons within Zoom can be recorded too, so pupils can re-visit lessons and those with poor Wi-Fi connections or in different time zones can catch up with lessons at a time that suits. Microsoft Teams, part of the Office 365 package, shares much of the same functionality. Read more and download Zoom at: https://zoom.us/signup – but it’s likely your child’s school will email all the links and information they’ll need to join lessons via their chosen video-conferencing platform.

Other home-learning resources

Some great resources and support mechanisms are springing up all over the internet, from Facebook groups connecting parents in isolation, to sites that curate teacher-created lessons offering free downloads and suggested schedules to keep us all sane.

One of the most comprehensive sites of this sort is Chatterpack: https://chatterpack.net/blogs/blog/resources-list-for-home-learning
In addition to all their usual resources designed to foster emotional wellbeing as well as academic prowess, this site has collated some fantastic resources from the education community and beyond to help anyone preparing to homeschool children of any age during these challenging times.

There are links to the British Library, where you can learn about the tiniest of books created over 200 years ago, as well as companies like Amazon Audible and Elementari (creating and coding interactive stories) who are offering free access to their online services during lockdown. There are online and offline maths activities (apps, worksheets and websites), as well as STEM activities, science videos on YouTube and virtual experiments.

For actual or would-be linguists, there are free resources for learning modern languages: everything from ’10 useful things to say in…’ to ‘fluency in three months’. You can take virtual tours of London’s top museums and others across the world and listen to podcasts on world history (BBC Radio 4) and ’50 things that made modern economy’. You can even explore the architecture and history of Rome, ‘walking’ around a 3D digital model of the ancient city. Zoos and famous landmarks across the world are also offering virtual tours free-of-charge (you can even tour a coral reef remotely!) – and there are details of an amazing array of plays, shows, musicals and concerts streaming online and available to view live or on demand. There are links to resources to help children learn to code, draw, dance and sing. You can even give an educational bias to Minecraft and meet your child’s learning preferences half way!

As an aside, the Chatterpack site is set up and managed on a purely voluntary basis by someone who works for the NHS. We salute her!

Celebrity schedule

For those of you who fancy a bit of fame to transform the mundane! Here’s a celebrity-packed schedule for children that covers the basics plus extra-curricular activities to maintain a healthy body and mind during lockdown

PE with Joe Wicks at 9am: https://youtu.be/6v-a_dpwhro

Maths with Carol Vorderman at 10am www.themathsfactor.com

English with David Walliams at 11am https://www.worldofdavidwalliams.com/elevenses/

Lunch with Jamie Oliver at 12 noon https://www.jamieoliver.com/features/category/get-kids-cooking/

music with Mylene Klass at 1pm https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQh2wgJ5tOrixYBn6jFXsXQ swiftly followed by…

dance with Darcey Bussell at 1:30pm https://twitter.com/diversedancemix/status/1241098264373592065

history with Dan Snow at 2pm https://tv.historyhit.com/signup/package (free for 30 days) and to finish…

 home economics with Theo Michaels at 4pm https://www.instagram.com/theocooks

Community spirit

Amidst all the uncertainty, there are some lovely examples of camaraderie and community spirit. Schools like Eton are committed to helping families whose financial circumstances have changed suddenly and unexpectedly as a result of the pandemic. And many parents have made donations so that other families and children can continue to benefit.

Eton itself, like many other establishments with rooms standing empty, will provide accommodation for NHS and other key workers who need to live away from unwell or vulnerable family members. They’re also offering their EtonX self-study programmes, free of charge, to every state secondary school in the UK – and planning to provide free school meals to local schools still open for key workers’ children.


The EtonX course mentioned above will be of particular help to Year 11 and 13 students. In the absence of public exams in 2020, EtonX will support students aged 16 to 18 as they consider their next steps.

We mentioned a few facts around the exam cancellation in our 25th March update. Many schools are taking a ‘business-as-usual’ approach, with teachers continuing to work with classes (albeit remotely) as if the exams were going ahead. Because the full details of how qualifications will be awarded for pupils completing GCSEs or equivalent and A Levels or their equivalents in 2020 are yet to be decided, it’s important that students remain engaged and working hard despite all the upheaval.

Ofqual are working on a process to provide a calculated grade to each student (hopefully by the end of July) that is a fair and accurate reflection of their performance and ability, but it’s likely that school-based assessed work will be used to dictate grades, with teachers taking into account a range of evidence and being consulted by exam boards. Students will also have the option to sit an exam early in the next academic year should they wish to.

You can read the latest updates on the exam situation here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/further-details-on-exams-and-grades-announced

Get in touch

Our own online tutorial service is working hard to meet demand. Do get in touch if we can help with tutoring or any other aspect of homeschooling or distance learning. These are testing times for all of us but stay strong, keep well and we will support you however we can.