Over the last few years Moulsford has spent a great deal of time, energy and money creating a robust IT infrastructure. This meant that when the country went into lockdown, the school was in a position to create a very smooth and immediate transition into virtual learning.
At Moulsford every boy is familiar with Google Classroom and the entire suite of Google applications because staff have been using it in school to complement their face-to-face teaching for some time. As every boy in Year 4 up also has use of a school iPad, the staff were able to begin online teaching successfully from day one.
Every few weeks Tiffany Squire, Deputy Head Academic and Director of IT, sought feedback from parents, staff and boys in order to adjust teaching to provide a way of working that suited as many people as possible as the school moved forward. Virtual Moulsford evolved and adapted as time went on. The timetable was re-written to put core subjects in the morning and non-core or more practical lessons in the afternoons. Giving the boys a full week of Art, Music, Drama, DT and ICT lessons allowed them to get really creative and the standard of work received was excellent.
More live lessons and drop-ins were introduced so that boys could see their teachers at the start of a lesson and receive a full explanation about the work being set. If this wasn’t possible then pre-recorded videos were used, and recorded spoken feedback on marked work, so that boys could hear how they have got on in a more personal way. However, that was balanced by giving the boys (and teachers) more screen breaks, or dividing lessons into manageable chunks and providing ‘catch-up time’ during the school day, with the aim that boys weren’t overloaded after school hours, giving them time to switch off and relax.
The school offered more one-on-one support for boys who were struggling academically or pastorally and these boys were assigned personal tutors to give even more help. It was important to have the same levels of expectations as the staff would have in the classroom, with boys expected to arrive on time and complete work set within the deadline. However, that had to be balanced with understanding that boys were getting tired, had broadband issues or maybe were in need of extra support.
The regular full school assemblies, Moulsford TV, Form Time, themed days, competitive challenges and virtual Forest School also provided opportunities to be part of the Moulsford community, something, which anecdotally, the boys missed when they weren’t here.
The Moulsford community showed great resilience and quickly adapted, despite enormous upheaval. However, the new skills that were developed and the creativity demonstrated by staff and boys alike will hold everyone in good stead for the future challenges of what lies ahead.
One of the main things that the Moulsford community missed during lockdown and the time of isolation was human interaction. Moulsford is a friendly school with a family feel and so it was important to maintain strong pastoral care during Virtual Moulsford.
At Moulsford we have open communication channels between boys and staff at all times, and this became even more important during Virtual Moulsford. Boys were encouraged to share difficulties with their peers and Form Heads and it was clear that the entire Moulsford community took strength from each other. The regular whole school assemblies, Google meets with forms, one-on-one online music lessons and Moulsford TV (where highlights from the week at Virtual Moulsford were broadcast to the whole school) ensured that boys continued to feel connected.
Boys were encouraged to do Acts of Random Kindness (ARK) at home, as not only does this make other people feel happier, it is proven to make you feel better too. Mr Hamilton-Smith also reminded the boys regularly to be kind to themselves and take some time out for exercise, reading a book, doing mindfulness, cooking something new and healthy or even just messing about in the back garden.
During lockdown boys in Years 3-7 also heard from James Shone, a speaker who runs his charity ‘I Can and I Am’ based around the core message of how to respond to setbacks and anxiety, by inflating one’s ‘balloon of self-belief’. It was a very important message, particularly during lockdown.
As a school we were very aware that the return to school would also pose pastoral issues and so wellbeing has been at the forefront of all planning going forward. There is a newly formed Wellbeing committee, a number of staff have taken mental health first aid training and there are several new wellbeing initiatives in the pipeline. Mental health and pastoral care has never been so important in society, and it remains a primary focus at Moulsford.
Sport and staying active is a big part of life at Moulsford and the Sport department knew that it had to be a focus during lockdown and Virtual Moulsford as well. The boys have energy to burn and so it was vital that there was some structured and unstructured sport for them to participate in at home.
In hindsight, it was fortunate that lockdown fell within the Moulsford cricket season, a team sport that has so many individual characteristics to it. Firstly, staff wanted to ensure that the sessions set were accessible to the boys whilst they were at home, finding creative ways of using general household items and not needing a lot of specialist equipment. Secondly, the staff realised the importance of independence, where they wanted the boys to be able to participate without a huge need for parental help.
Therefore, boys were provided with 10 to 12 coaching videos a week. The videos were put together by the Moulsford Games staff, with the help of Mark Garaway, Director of Cricket Coaching at Millfield. Each one focussed on a different element of the game, either bowling, batting, fielding or wicket keeping. These were adapted to suit the home environment, seeing new games evolve such as Wall Ball, Deflection Squash, Dice Cricket and Whack-a-Mole.
It was important to ensure that the videos were accessible to those of all abilities, using levelling and progression. There were players new to the game, especially in the junior year groups, as well as more experienced players towards the top of the school who still needed to be challenged.
Lastly, it was important to try and recreate the competition and camaraderie in Moulsford sport, so a House Competition was run on a weekly basis, aimed at boosting engagement and quality of practise, whilst also having peer guest coaches delivering master-classes and sharing fun games or drills they had created themselves.
Athletics & Fitness
Mr Orgill, Moulsford’s Head of PE, headed up the athletics and fitness provision, to make sure that the boys weren’t just building on their sporting skills but also ensuring they had a high activity level and stayed healthy. Mr Orgill uploaded two videos a week full of imaginative ways to keep the physical activity fun, such as, celebrating Roger Bannister’s 4 minute mile anniversary, a number of #ibeatmrorgill challenges and home Olympic events….. This also included the school teaming up with Caldicott School, where both schools took on the challenge of climbing as many stairs as possible to see what could be achieved together. The combined effort meant that between them the schools ended up climbing Mt. Everest 3 times!
The boys in the Pre-Prep were also encouraged to keep active with every boy being given a set of equipment to enable them to carry on learning their new sporting skills at home.