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My name is Deepa Vekaria and I teach Art and DT at Woodfield School which is located in the Borough of Brent. Woodfield school is an outstanding special school – we offer places to pupils aged 11-19 with a wide range of learning difficulties. The curriculum is practical and engaging, and teachers have high expectations that challenge and meet the needs of our pupils in this multicultural school. We have expertise in a range of teaching methods to meet the needs of pupils with Autism, Moderate Learning Difficulties and Severe Learning Difficulties.
Is your school closed during lockdown?
Our school is currently closed, we are waiting for appropriate PPE for staff from Brent before we consider opening a limited provision for a few pupils, which would be subject to robust public health risk assessments.
We have been following Government guidance, and SLT have had regular meetings since the lockdown. Our Headteacher has also been attending briefings alongside other Heads with Brent Local Authority.
Pupils who have Free School Meals have been provided with food vouchers, and our Parent Support Lead has been in contact with families to provide advice and support.
How are you approaching teaching and learning at home?
We have been using Google classroom, where staff can upload work for each class. We have been calling parents and carers each week to provide support with schoolwork; providing advice, checking in to see how they are and asking if there is anything we can do to help.
The feedback so far has been very positive and families are very appreciative of the work and contact during this very difficult time, especially those that are unable to have any social contact.
Parents and carers have been provided with staff email addresses and student passwords so that they can access Discovery Education and IXL, which we use at school. The students are familiar with how they work and our pupils really enjoy using them.
Staff have been sharing information, resources and activities which may be useful. Everyone has been extremely supportive and SLT have kept everyone updated each week.
What are your main priorities and challenges?
Our main priorities have been to ensure that we are in weekly contact with families to provide work for pupils, alongside support and advice. We are continuing to look at ways to reach our pupils and families with ideas and experiences such as creating videos of stories, music and exercises that can be shared.
The biggest challenges have been ensuring that families who may not have internet access or a device that pupils can use to complete their work still receive classwork. For these families, Key Stage Leads have been posting work home.
We are also currently putting together an offer to support families, pupils and staff that may need additional emotional support.
What specific challenges have you experienced around creativity in lockdown?
It has been a real challenge to try and support pupils creativity without having access to the specialist resources that we would normally have within our own classrooms such as paints, clay, kinetic sand, pastels etc., which students enjoy using, particularly from sensory perspective.
I would like to create a booklet with a range of tasks and quick recipes that pupils could try making at home such as making play dough, mixing cornflour and water, making slime etc.
I would also like pupils to write a story or perhaps recreate an existing story that they know well, where one pupil can start and then it gets sent to the next pupil who continues and so on until everyone has a turn. When one class has finished, it moves to the next class and continues moving along the different classes. We could have it printed as a book at the end to celebrate the contribution that everyone has made and perhaps illustrate parts of the story.
What plans do you have for your school after lockdown?
I would like to create a display when we return to school which will provide an opportunity for students and staff to express how they felt during the lockdown and also what activities they enjoyed taking part in the most.
There have been some really interesting programmes which encourage families to take part in cooking, dancing, exercise sessions and have fun whilst they are learning.
Tips for other teachers in lockdown
- Keep in contact with parents and carers weekly if possible to provide support. To ensure that they know we are here if they need any advice or just someone to talk to (emotional support)
- Staff have been absolutely fantastic with supporting one another, and our SLT want to ensure that staff are also looking after their own wellbeing through this difficult time. Please ask for support from your line manager or SLT if you need help, as keeping in contact with one another to check-in is extremely important
- The Crafts Council are in the process of creating resources which should hopefully be ready by next week, please take a look at their website for the latest updates. Take a look at 64 Million Artists too as they have daily creative challenges which they send out via email, which you could share with parents and carers
Have you got any tips from your own school experience? We are interested in hearing from teachers in London about which resources they are finding most helpful during school closures.