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Every child at Mark Hall Academy given access to live online learning.

Education: Secondary / Wed 10th Feb 2021 at 12:46pm

EVERY child at Mark Hall Academy is being given access to live online learning.

Since joining the BMAT family of schools this year, the school, in Harlow, has launched real-time remote lessons for the first time.

During the last national lockdown, work was set by teachers and children urged to complete it at home in their own time. 

At the start of this partial school closure, 170 work packs were being delivered to the homes of students who could not access the internet.

Now, with many families struggling with lack of technology, the Trust has bought and distributed laptops to those unable to join lessons from home.

Vice Principal Rachel Braniff, new to the school and Trust, said: “Our children are now following their traditional timetable, with both teachers and students on screen together. These lessons are as good as an in-school lesson. We have reduced lesson time slightly from one hour to 45 minutes as online lessons can be intense and it gives students an opportunity to step away from the screen to complete tasks and homework. Teachers are really appreciating that voice-to-voice interaction with their students this time around.

“Students are interacting with their teachers, they can ask questions and their learning is being checked. That is a vast difference to before.”

The work is being appreciated by parents. Mum Julia Wilson said: “Wow. I am so impressed with home schooling this lockdown. They have it spot-on. The children have their heads down most of the day and everything is running so smoothly. Good job, Mark Hall.”

Teachers are now more easily able to identify where additional work needs to be done.

Extra lessons in core subjects are being provided to Year 11 to fill the gaps in their learning.

Mrs Braniff said: “There has been a huge injection from BMAT to give laptops to children who needed them. When the last few laptops have been distributed, we will have 100 per cent of our students accessing online learning.

“It is incredible that those barriers have been removed. There are so many factors affecting learning in this situation, so if we can remove them, we are enabling children to access learning on an equal platform.

“We are eliminating the gaps. With the best will in the world, the paper work packs could provide the work, but they could not identify or address those gaps. By having live lessons, learning is continuing at the right pace. Where we are discovering gaps, we can take action quickly.”

New colleagues from across BMAT have assisted those in Mark Hall to switch to the Trust’s way of operating.

Mrs Braniff said: “We have had a lot of support from BMAT. CEO Helena Mills is a real ‘roll up your sleeves’ hands-on person. Decisions are made quickly and that is really refreshing.

“We are speaking to people at other BMAT schools as much as we are speaking to those in our own school. People are offering support; there is a real sharing culture which is really evident. That is exciting.”

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