News of the covid-19 pandemic, and lockdown, has dominated the news for the best part of a year now. It comes in a variety of flavours; pandemic and the NHS, pandemic and businesses, lockdown and tiers. Of course, we mustn’t forget pandemic, lockdown, and education.
The media in general likes to say that ‘schools are closed’, allowing readers to form images of hordes of teachers in onesies chilling on the sofa and developing a serious Netflix habit. In reality, whilst schools are ‘closed to most pupils’, some children are still in school and others are learning remotely, and teachers are juggling teaching both of these cohorts.
Remote learning has advantages and disadvantages, and one Huddersfield high school wanted to ensure that there were far more of the former than the latter.
North Huddersfield Trust School (NHTS), off Woodhouse Hill in Fartown, saw the changes necessitated by remote learning as an opportunity to try out something a bit different. Over the last year they had sought feedback and input from staff, students and parents to help with the shaping of ongoing remote learning arrangements, as it became clear that it would remain a fixture in our lives for a while.
Two members of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT), Dominic Murphy, Assistant Headteacher for Curriculum and Assessment, and Nick Collins, took this feedback on board, and the idea of the Lockdown 50 was born.
“Mental health and wellbeing was an area of concern often being highlighted, so at SLT meetings we discussed how we could shape our provision to be even more supportive of our young people and their families. We’d also discussed how we could teach life skills and engage students in the world around them”, Nick, who is Assistant Headteacher for Student Experience, explained. Discussions also touched upon the dilemma between wanting young people to spend less time using screens whilst asking them to spend five hours a day in front of one for live lessons.
Eight subjects that would lend themselves to practical tasks were chosen; Art, Music, Drama, ICT, PE, PSHCE, RPE and Technology. Subject leaders were challenged with thinking about the skills that they would want students to have, and created tasks that would enable students to either learn or build upon those skills.
As the name Lockdown 50 suggests there are 50 tasks in total, and some have cross-curricular links whereby skills crossover different subject areas.
Tasks include baking using a variety of methods, a press up challenge, watching dramatic performances and evaluating them, creating art based on philosophical questions, a ‘Letter to the Head’ in response to the school’s aims, creating a musical instrument with household objects, origami and choreography. As well as carrying out the tasks, students provide evidence and a written reflection explaining how the task went and what they learned from doing it.
Lockdown 50 has proven to have even more benefits than originally anticipated. Students are given independence in terms of when and how they carry out tasks; they don’t have to do the Art task in the hour they would usually have Art, for example. They can spend hours on one task, and a shorter time on another depending on where their interests lie. Family participation is encouraged, and even staff have been getting involved! As well as a weekly newsletter including examples of evidence that have been submitted, some is also shared on the school’s social media profiles, encouraging students to take pride in their work and know that it is being recognised.
From the school’s point of view, they have gained an extra layer of contact with families and students due to the involvement of a Portfolio Mentor for each student’s Lockdown 50 evidence. The Mentor has weekly contact with the students which provides an extra opportunity for any issues to be raised and discussed. NHTS has always worked closely with families, and this support has increased considerably throughout the last year.
Feedback from students and staff has been overwhelmingly positive, in particular due to the reduced screen time and encouraging people to try things that are outside of their comfort zone. Students have voted with their virtual feet, flooding inboxes with photos, videos, poems, songs and stories; proof that taking a leap and making big changes to the timetable has more than paid off.
Headteacher Andrew Fell is delighted with the Lockdown 50 and the warm reception it has had, and said “We want to use the opportunities that remote learning offers to engage Key Stage 3 students in a different way, whilst still providing the more traditional academic education. Lockdown 50 allows a more creative approach to learning, that fosters independence and encourages individuality. With the added benefit of reducing screen time for students, hopefully this will support their mental health and wellbeing.”
With the return to school date far from certain, one wondered whether 50 tasks would be sufficient. Nick Collins reassured us, saying “it may become the Lockdown 100!”.
You can keep up with the Lockdown 50 tasks and examples of work from students on the school’s social media links: