Teachers got creative during lockdown to ensure students thrived

Teachers got creative during lockdown to ensure students thrived

From awards ceremonies with Olympic gold medallists to exercise videos that caught the eye of the BBC, a college in Suffolk got creative to ensure students stayed engaged during lockdown.

“Basically we had to create on online business model for what we do overnight. I’m incredibly proud of what everyone achieved and the innovation shown was remarkable,” said the deputy principal of Suffolk New College, Alan Pease.

Innovation included the creation of a star studded sports awards event involving Olympic gold medallist, Sally Gunnell, England goalkeeper Nick Pope, BBC TV royalty Gabby Logan and others, fun sporting videos that were discussed on BBC Radio, a creative writing celebration backed by Archant, an online music concert, a lockdown dance showcase, an art exhibition and a virtual learning experience day that attracted hundreds of participants.

Foundation Learning tutor, Sam Doubledee, said college investment has aided the transition. She said: “Last year, the college purchased Chromebooks for learners and this meant no students went without. Overall, there’s a real willingness in the college community to ensure our learners succeed.

“The college has always supported teachers and embraced new technology. Because of this, we were able to go straight into an online learning model. It was already embedded in the work we were doing.”

Public services lecturer, Will Burl, went all Jamie Oliver to help students pass their Duke of Edinburgh Awards via an online cooking lessons and feels the trick to keeping students engaged is to try and keep it light. He said: “We had quizzes, used videos, social media, had online awards with industry experts and went out of our way to create structured fun.”

Jess Broad is an art teacher who specialises in working with foundation learning students.

She said: “My students prefer having that daily interaction so getting a feel for how they are feeling emotionally was tricky. But the longer this has gone on, the easier it has been to adapt your teaching style to an online environment.

The health and wellbeing of students has been crucial throughout. Business lecturer, Thomas Smith, said, “We did a bit of a wellbeing check in everyday and the students enjoyed this – it gave them some perspective that they were not alone in this. In the long term – I think we would be silly not to learn from what has happened as the future of teaching may never be the same again.”

Darren Simons the teacher training co-ordinator at the college, as well as being a Google innovator. He also felt health and wellbeing needed to play a key role in tutor training.

He said: “One of the drawbacks of not being in a classroom is the fact that it is harder to spot the signs for people who are struggling with their mental health. So we have a member of staff who has been taught to look at signs of mental health issues within our students online and she has passed on this knowledge to tutors.

In terms of teacher training overall, he added: “We constantly adapted our model to ensure we achieved as much engagement as possible. In some instances, we found that if we contact students via mobile phones – we receive more interaction. Some people weren’t happy being on camera – but texting and social media has been very effective.

“We also worked hard with our teachers, shared knowledge with each other and rather than using generic videos, we have asked teachers to create videos themselves.

“Looking ahead, our English department are developing a 100pc online GCSE curriculum module online. The future may include a mixture of classroom and online teaching at the same time – so all the lessons we have learnt will be incredibly valuable in the future.”

Deputy Principal, Alan Pease, continued: “One of our biggest successes has to be the fact that lockdown did not impact learner engagement.

“That has to be down to the innovative way in which our teachers adapted. They have really kept the ship afloat and looked after the welfare of our students. Everyone has pulled together and our learners have been at the heart of everything we have done.

“We have worked hard to ensure that everything was in place for opening this month so that current and new students have been able to hit the ground running in terms of education, irrespective of the learning landscape.”

19 year old Justice Gaisie from Ipswich studied art at Suffolk New College and was taught throughout lockdown. He said, “I had loads of support from teachers throughout my time at the college. They kept us engaged and offered help to each and every one of us. The overall experience has been very enjoyable.”