Lockdown and at-home working are presenting new and different challenges for all of us, not least for those working in the education sector.

The speed at which teachers have had to adapt their teaching methods is staggering, as virtually overnight they have gone from busy and interactive classrooms to the solitude of remote working. They are quickly having to find new and innovative ways of holding their students’ attention through various online platforms while still managing to engage, motivate and inspire.

But with the wonders of twenty-first century technology, exceptional levels of organisation and the steely determination that is the mark of all good teachers wanting to provide the best possible learning experience for every student, the education sector and its staff are more than meeting the challenge.

Right across the country, and indeed around the world, teachers are logging on to various online platforms to deliver interactive and informative lessons to help keep students’ learning on track and to maintain the lines of communication, which are so vitally important.

Linda Magrath is CEO at the Laurus Trust in Greater Manchester, a multi-academy trust currently incorporating seven schools and educating pupils aged between three and 18.

She says:

“The successful delivery of our online lessons has been a full team effort. From the technical team and support staff through to the teachers themselves, the dedication and commitment to getting everything up and running has been unprecedented.

“It’s not enough to say that we’re simply providing online lessons though. We have to ensure that they are of good quality and are accessible to all our students. For that we’ve had to take a clear and calm approach and have been careful and thorough in our planning. Knee-jerk reactions in these situations are no good and I think we are all learning very quickly what works and what is maybe not quite as successful.

“It takes a great deal of communication and a collaborative approach amongst the full team to make sure our delivery of remote lessons is the best it can be.”

Live online lessons are working well across Laurus Trust schools and the attendance rates are incredibly high. Staff also recognise however that inaccessibility to the required technology can be a barrier to learning for some students and are embracing a range of teaching methods and formats to ensure that no one is placed at a disadvantage. All course materials are uploaded to the school websites, printed work packs are made available to those that need them and personalised work booklets are provided to students with SEND. It is a multi-layered approach to ensure optimum provision and support for all students at a time when it is arguably needed the most.

The Laurus Trust also operates the highly successful Altius Alliance, School Centred Teacher Training for both primary and secondary education. It is based at the Trust’s flagship school, the Ofsted-outstanding Cheadle Hulme High in Stockport.

Trainees at the Altius Alliance are witnessing first-hand the exemplary response of the Trust’s staff and the many different ways that teachers are being required to help during the ongoing health crisis.

Alongside their day-to-day duties including lesson planning and delivery, marking work and submitting feedback, and providing supervision for the children of key workers, teachers and support staff across the Laurus Trust have taken on additional roles and responsibilities. They have undertaken Easter egg deliveries to younger students, worked tirelessly to produce thousands of items of vital personal protective equipment for frontline workers and have arranged charity donations for organisations helping those most severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Linda continues:

“Being a teacher is not enough. Working in a school also means being part of the community and we take our role in that very seriously. It’s important that we all pull together and support one another. This situation is not really a lesson we could have planned for our trainee teachers at the Altius Alliance but it is an incredibly valuable one that I’m sure will stand them in good stead for their future careers. “

Social media is also playing an increasingly important role within school communities. Where platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram might previously have been used by schools to simply share their latest news or upcoming events, they are now a central source of support and information and a place where parents, carers and students can share updates on life away from school.

The Laurus Trust is also using its school pages to share interesting educational ideas and activities to further engage students in their learning including science experiments, competitions and sports challenges to bring some light relief to the stresses and strains of time in lockdown.

As we all adapt to a very different way of life it is heartening to see the many different ways that our schools and education providers are rising to the challenge, making sure that they are as present and influential in their students’ lives as ever before.