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Taunton School > Remote Learning Guidance

Remote Learning Guidance

Welcome to our home page for remote learning.

The purpose of this page is to be a useful tool for offering guidance and support during our home learning Summer Term for our students and parents.  It will be added to and expanded as we progress through the term.

Virtual Learning Videos

Watch the videos below to get a feel for what our classes and community have been involved in using the Virtual Learning facilities available at Taunton School.

 

"The Head has his say" Andrew Edwards, 15th May 2020

I hope that you and your families are all keeping safe and well. The high levels of engagement and effort, and the high quality of work being produced by the pupils, is a very good indication that our pupils are continuing to thrive

in many ways. Each and every pupil has made a very significant contribution to the tremendous body of work being produced by all of our year groups, and I am delighted that so many house points, rolls of honours, and weekly assembly certificates have been awarded since the start
of term. Very well done to all pupils and staff, and to the parents who have provided such great support.

We are all also acutely aware at the same time that the children are missing their friends, missing all of the work and activities which they are not able to do at the moment, and missing being in school. The teachers are continuing to stay in close touch with all of their pupils and tutees and we are giving as much support as we possibly can where this is needed. We are in the process of sending out a well-being survey for our pupils and we will consider very carefully the information which this gives us.
For pupils in Year 8, we have been giving thought of course to their final five weeks in the Prep School after half term. We have been spending significant time speaking with, and listening to, these pupils and we will be sending a letter before half term to parents of pupils in Year 8.

The government’s request that we now start planning for the possible return of Year 6 pupils has thrust us all into a fresh situation to manage, and it is going to be essential that we work together as one community to find the correct way forward.

For us as a Prep School, with Year 8 being our final year instead of Year 6, it could be argued that Year 8 would have been the first-year group to return. However, we are bound by, and must follow, government guidance.
We all know that a successful return to school for any of our classes will depend upon high levels of teamwork, co-operation and trust between pupils, staff and parents. During this week, we have been considering carefully all of the government advice and listened to the thoughts of our staff, and I will be sending a letter by the end of tomorrow to parents of pupils in Year 6, giving them more information and seeking their thoughts.
Looking ahead to the final week before half term, Mr Winsor and the sports staff are looking at ways in which we can run some sort of ‘Sports Day’ and I know that House Staff and House Captains are looking at ways in which other House events and House competitions can be run this term.

We can all be extremely proud of what we have achieved so far this term and hugely encouraged by the fact that, at the end of one more week of effort, we will be able to enjoy a very well-deserved rest over half term. Thank you and very well done to all pupils, parents and staff, for all of their hard work, skill and commitment.

I trust that you can all have a restful and enjoyable weekend.

Andrew Edwards, Head of Prep

"News From Nursery and Pre-Prep" Louise Leah, 15th May 2020

I do hope that you all continue to stay safe and positive. As I write this to you, my two teenage boys continue to build their outdoor pizza bar, in our garden. Certainly … changing times for us all to adapt to.

It would be dishonest to say that it isn’t a challenge to write this piece for the Courier this week. Following the announcement on Sunday – there has been much to read and many meetings to attend. Thank you very much to all of you who have responded
to my correspondence from the 13th May 2020. Your messages of support and understanding yet again project the strength of the Taunton School Community and are greatly valued by myself and the rest of the team.

We are currently seeking clarification on a number of issues and once we have these answers, more concrete Government

guidance and instruction, along with the agreement from all the other areas of the school, I will communicate a clearer map of the phased return to school for Nursery, Reception and Year one. Unfortunately, until we receive further guidance around Year two, we will continue our remote learning provision and hope to see this year group again in school before they transition to TPS in September.

Thank you again for all you are doing to support your children’s learning. It is amazing to see how much creativity is going into what the children are doing at home.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend together.

Louise Leah, Head of Pre-Prep and Nursery

"The New Normal...?" Hayley Mortimer, 8th May 2020

Four weeks into the summer term, many of us have bedded in to our remote school routine. I am fortunate that in many ways my ‘new normal’ is not so very distant from my previous normal.

I have been able to be part of Music rehearsals and concerts, the audience for Burke Debates, discussions in Academic and Drama Scholars, and physical sessions in fitness testing and home training circuit development with Sports Scholars. In some ways it is easier for me, as I have on occasion been able to be in two places at once, or been able to watch sessions back after they have been recorded. Microsoft Teams is a bit like the time-turner that Hermione Granger has in the Prisoner of Azkaban – very handy for busy folk!

Of course we miss the noise, chaos and energy that comes from having a school full of teachers and students, but to see so many of the community getting involved in online activities has made me very proud. The ‘Miles for MS’ challenge has started very positively, with over 49 staff and students completing more than 1700 km and raising over £1600: the first success of the Taunton School Strava Club. The Community Choir has received over 50 individual videos to create a montage of “You are Not Alone.” The last month has seen the strength of the Taunton School Community shine through.

I wonder whether some of our new normal routines will stick in the future? Family board games and baking, the effort made to have telephone conversations or online video calls with family and friends, cherishing the allowance of daily exercise to explore the green spaces around our homes, the joys of reading and developing new skills – why not just carry on with these post- lockdown?

I have absolutely recognised that, now more than ever, I have a new appreciation for the beautiful area in which I live, having explored areas of Taunton on walks or cycling excursions, tried new recipes and enjoyed cooking, as well as finding time to read for enjoyment; all things I may not have done if this crisis had not happened. Whilst I miss people, I have been able to use this time to think about the things that are really important to me in my life and to explore new things that I did not challenge myself to do in the past.

There is still time to explore pastures new, use this time to see how innovative and creative you can be.

Hayley Mortimer, Director of Co-Curricular

"Remote learning the story so far" Damian Henderson, 4th May 2020

In honour of May the Fourth, or ‘Star Wars Day’ as it is humorously known, I feel like I should begin this article with “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”! This would certainly reflect just how other-worldly the last three weeks have felt for many

students, staff and doubtless parents of Taunton School. It has been, at times, an alien experience, but also one full of delightful new sights, sounds and skills – like lightsaber training with a helmet on!

Enough of the space metaphors. It has been an incredibly challenging time on many levels. But the students and teachers have responded magnificently to these challenges. Recent surveys on our remote provision showed that, despite their separation from friends and school, around 40% of our student body feel ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’, and nearly a quarter rated the start of
this term as ‘less stressful than normal’. Students value the live lessons we have been running on the Microsoft Teams platform, the support of their tutors, and the helpfulness, availability and creativity of their subject teachers. Especially for older year groups, online learning does allow for a greater degree of independent learning and managing one’s own time and, although the press
is full of stories about ‘Covid learning loss’, some students could come out of this period of lockdown having learnt more than they would have normally in certain areas. Of course, the cost of this will be lack of team sport, socialising, community engagement and many of the other lovely things which characterise the life of

Taunton School and others like it, but in narrowly academic terms, lockdown is far from a disaster so far.
I am enormously indebted to the Taunton School staff for their amazing efforts to get remote learning off the ground and deliver lessons whilst balancing other commitments in sometimes difficult domestic circumstances. The hardest thing for teachers has been electronic workflow and the difficulty of monitoring and marking work submitted on different platforms. Students in turn have had to learn quickly how to jump between applications. With this in mind, we have reduced prep expectations for Years 9 and 10 – the idea being to focus on quality and consistency over quantity, and this means that schemes of work will be lengthened all the way to the end of term. Even if we do return to school in June, there will be no exams – to everyone’s relief!

Like everyone, we are hanging on every Government statement and press conference, trying to glean some clues about what lies ahead. But one thing which is obvious is that, come what may, we have a strong community at Taunton School which will bring us through adversity and out into happier times with few damaging after-effects.

We aim to show off some of the great things our students have been getting up to in their lessons over the coming days, through social media and on the school website.

With best wishes to everyone: May the Fourth be with you!

Damian Henderson, Deputy Head Academic

"The Head has his say" Andrew Edwards, 1st May 2020

I hope that you and your family are keeping safe and well. It seems that many are feeling that we have entered into a new phase of lockdown where our adjusted lives are beginning to feel in some strange way ‘normal’. This can be positive if we have established routines which are working well for us, or it can feel less positive if the novelty factor is beginning to wear off leaving us feeling a little flat.

The key for us in school is not to allow the extension of lockdown to cause us to take our eye off the ball in terms of the education, care, health and well-being of our pupils. We have this week received completed questionnaires from parents, pupils and staff, and we are working hard to extract the main learning from the responses so that we can make further improvements to the remote learning experience. Thank you to all parents for taking the time and trouble to complete the parental questionnaire and for giving us such useful and constructive feedback.
I have been delighted this week to see so much work of high quality from pupils of all year groups.

Today, I will focus on Year 3 and Year 7. Mr Rowse, Mrs Hill and I have been truly impressed with the persuasive and descriptive writing techniques used by the Year 3 pupils as they used their work on ‘The Railway Children’ to compose a letter persuading a friend to come for a stay in the countryside. Meanwhile, Mrs Burton and her team have been proud to show me excellent poems written by our Year 7 pupils, with many examples of imaginative alliteration, and very effective descriptions of the Ancient Mariner. Very well done to all of the pupils in the Prep School for the high standard of work which they are continuing to produce!

It is often said that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and one of the inspiring outcomes of the current situation is that we are all finding imaginative new ways of doing things. 92% of individual music lessons are continuing in the Prep School, clubs and activities are up and running with an impressive choice sent this week to all pupils, and we are busy setting up our first ‘Live Virtual Open Morning’, during which members of staff will be live on screen delivering informative and interesting webinars for prospective parents. Details are on our website should you have any friends wishing to attend; I can promise them an innovative and original visit!

Finally, I make no apologies for ending my courier piece in the same way that I did last week with a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to all parents and relatives who are doing so much to continue to support their children in their learning. A strong school community is measured by the teamwork between staff, pupils and parents, and I know for certain that we are going to be coming out of this situation stronger than ever before.

I trust that you can all have a restful and enjoyable weekend.

Andrew Edwards, Head of Prep

"News From Nursery and Pre-Prep" Louise Leah, 1st May 2020

Dear Parents,

These are undoubtedly challenging times and all our resilience is being tested. So we really hope that the communication from TPPS remains at all times encouraging, positive, comforting and where possible fun. Together we provide a force of strength and a power to support each other.

I do hope that despite the current situation, you are all feeling connected and very much a part of our Pre-Prep and Nursery community. I very much hope that through our remote learning provision, we are providing your child with a sense of normality, structure and security. Your child’s well-being is of utmost importance to us, particularly during this unsettling time.

Throughout the week, I have been amazed by all the fabulous work I have seen on the children’s portfolios and I know the teachers are delighted with the way that all the children are engaging in their learning. Having seen a number of very entertaining videos, I feel we might have many film stars in the making!

Next Friday, we will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of VE Day. On Monday we will be posting to Class Dojo activities which can be completed at home to celebrate the Anniversary of this extremely special and important event. We would love to see photos of any celebrations you might be having at home.

Louise Leah, Head of Pre-Prep and Nursery

"Welcome to the Summer Term." Lee Glaser, 24th April 2020

I nearly fell off my chair when Matt Hancock recently announced his five-pillar testing plan. I wondered if he had been looking at our website. Okay, I accept the five pillars of Islam were in place long before ours, but we got there before Matt. If it helps us to lead safer lives, I’m happy to lend our five pillars to the Health Secretary.
Our vision is based on five pillars and from time to time I am asked to consider which is the most important. It’s almost impossible to answer but people will have a different opinion depending on their own view of education. Pastoral care is often cited as the most important and many are of the view that it should be a foundation stone rather than a pillar. After all, a young person who feels safe, happy and secure will learn better than one who does not feel cared for.

My own thinking changes. Not through a lack of decisiveness but because the pillars change in importance due to the cycle of school life and external factors. Right now, I am clear in my mind that Community is number one.
At a time of uncertainty and anxiety I have been heartened by the positivity, energy, generosity and sheer determination of our community.
The students have engaged readily with a new way of learning and are working as hard as ever. I am very proud of them.

The teachers have blown me away with their desire to provide a high standard of lessons, cocurricular activity and pastoral care. I loved the virtual choir practice, the virtual monologues and am looking forward to the virtual debate tomorrow. I enjoyed attending a tutorial and thanks to the Year 11 Bevan girls for allowing me to drop in.

Finally, parents have been fantastic. The many messages of support before term started were very much appreciated and I intend to collate them and share them with my colleagues. The ones since we started online lessons have been so positive and very gratefully received. And your generosity is astonishing. I can’t thank you enough.

These are tough times. I have communicated with most of my colleagues and many have commented that we miss the noise and chaos of our daily lives with 550 teenagers. Our community is amazing, and I can’t wait until we are back together again. In the meantime, I thank you all and please keep in touch.

Lee Glaser, Headmaster 

"The First week of remote teaching and learning." Damian Henderson, 24th April 2020

I believe there is a military saying about no battle plan surviving first contact with the enemy, and it is true to say that, despite extensive planning over Easter, we faced many and varied challenges in the first few days of term. It has been a steep learning curve for everyone, but the students have been wonderfully cheerful and co-operative and enjoying the novelty of their remote lessons. We have had some very helpful feedback from students, staff and the community, and we will act on this, plus the results of the wellbeing survey, as we continue to hone our systems for the rest of this half term. The goal is not so much to replicate the totality of normal school remotely, as to create a supremely enjoyable online version of it.

Once a manageable workflow is established, I can see the number of academic and co-curricular extension opportunities mushrooming. TS Teachers are fanatical about broadening their students’ horizons and the virtual world offers tantalising possibilities for enrichment of all sorts – but this is all to come. For now, I must express my gratitude to everyone for rolling up their sleeves to make this work. A special mention must go to Years 11 and 13 AL students who have bought in to the idea of finishing learning their courses, even when exams are cancelled, and a super special mention to the Year 13 IB cohort and their teachers who have pivoted nimbly onto pre-university courses at short notice, in light of the abandonment of the May session. Mr Roberts writes with details of these courses.

Damian Henderson, Deputy Head Academic

"The Head has his say" Andrew Edwards, 24th April 2020

I hope that you are all able to enjoy some of this wonderfully sunny weather at the moment. Perhaps it is the British weather playing its usual humorous games with us; the moment we go into lockdown, we are blessed with clear blue skies for weeks on end!

It has been terrific to hear about the high levels of ambition and effort being shown by all TPS pupils. We are carefully monitoring attendance and we have total engagement from the whole of the Prep school. I am hearing about tremendous work from pupils, both individually and as a class, and I am speaking with teachers about how it might be possible for me to start seeing some of this work, as I would have done in the playground at breaktime if we were all in school physically.

As well as the progress being made in all of the classroom subjects, I am very much looking forward to seeing what we can all achieve in the co-curricular activities which have been launched. I am busy recording my contribution with Robyn to the Community Choir online performance of ‘You are not alone’; please do contact Mrs Hornsby if you would like to take part!

I am also convinced that our children are learning many things which go beyond what we would have expected in the normal run of things. They are making huge leaps in terms of understanding computer systems and the fabulous educational opportunities offered by the digital age. Some pupils have been watching TED talks, others have accessed awesome scientific experiments, and some have used technology to learn new skills. I suspect that all of us are realising that technology can be used to genuinely enrich our lives in more ways than we had previously imagined.

It is also very interesting to monitor how pupils cope with the challenges of learning new ways of doing things. It may be, for example, that a child finds ‘normal school’ relatively straightforward but that remote learning throws up more problems for that child. Although this can be challenging, it offers, at the same time, significant opportunities to develop important attitudes to learning like positivity, curiosity, persistence and resilience.

Finally, I would like to once again give my sincere thanks to all parents (and other relatives) who have given so much support to the children and to the school, enabling us to make such an exciting and positive start to the Summer term. Thank you, and I wish you all a restful and enjoyable weekend.

Andrew Edwards, Head of Prep

"News From Nursery and Pre-Prep" Louise Leah, 24th April 2020

We have so enjoyed seeing the children’s work uploaded to Class Dojo over the last eight days of our remote schooling. How hard all the children have been working on the tasks set by their teachers. Thank you so much for all that you are doing to support this.

We have so enjoyed seeing the children’s work uploaded to Class Dojo over the last eight days of our remote schooling. How hard all the children have been working on the tasks set by their teachers. Thank you so much for all that you are doing with physical activity, play and opportunities to be creative.

We heard from a family in the holidays, who had realised that they were all spending too much time in separate rooms on their own devices, playing games, looking at Twitter or watching Netflix. They decided to mix it up a bit and have been doing a family Masterchef competition as well as agreeing either to do some art or writing at least every other day. The family felt it had made a noticeable difference to everyone’s mood and that it had provided much needed laughter for them all.

We are very much looking forward to hearing from all the children again online next week and hope that they are looking forward to it as well. Thank you, parents, for all that you are doing to juggle and support your children, we appreciate that this can’t be easy at all.

Louise Leah, Head of Pre-Prep and Nursery

"Safeguarding Matters." Ed Burnett, 22nd April 2020

Safeguarding matters- Ed Burnett

Over the course of the Easter holidays we have tried to ensure that our remote school placed the wellbeing and the safeguarding of each

pupil at the heart of everything we do. This has followed four key principles:

1. AWARENESS

The government recently updated its safeguarding guidance because it is worried about the impact that remote learning and social distancing will have on young people. This ranges from direct issues such as online vulnerability through to the indirect impact of screen time and isolation on mental health.

2. EMPOWERMENT

Our children will be impacted by this and they need
to know how to respond by reaching out for support via the mechanisms they are used to such as their family, friends and the school. Alternatively, they may prefer to reach in and find their
own solutions through external agencies and organisations. A great example would be using the many excellent charities such as Young Minds.

3. LEADERSHIP

Not only must our young people look after themselves, but they need to look after one another whether this is directly within their peer groups or more indirectly by keeping an eye out for younger people.

4. COMMUNITY

‘We are in this together’: this is a national rallying call and one we are seeing within our own Taunton School community. As a school we continue to work with other multi agencies to ensure that all young people and their families are at the heart of our decision making.

What is the school doing to ensure these four principles are followed?

The screenshot above is probably the best insight into the school’s approach. We have recorded screencasts for each year group to talk through all the different things we are doing to support them and our community. The summary is below

1. The school is here for them – we may be remote, but we will do everything we can to remain at the centre of their lives.

2. Every remote day starts with tutorial time so they can connect with their friends in the tutor group and with their tutor

3. We have not furloughed any key staff in our health Centre to ensure continuity of care. Emily Kane, Danni Ziabek (the sister and deputy sister), both mental health nurses (Maria and Sarah) and Frank, the school counsellor remain employed by the school

4. We continue to put together a wide co-curricular and wellbeing programme (outlined by Hayley Mortimer and Ruth Coomber in this edition of the courier).

As ever, if there anything else we could and should
be doing then please do get on touch: no matter what the circumstances we want to work with pupils and parents to ensure our children continue to thrive through these challenging times.

Five ways to wellbeing- Ruth Coomber

During this unusual time that we are living through, wellbeing is perhaps more vital than ever. We have created a dedicated firefly page

and TEAMS group for all staff and students to dip in to as and when they feel they need. On the firefly page we have focused on the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’. This is the principle that wellbeing can be achieved in different ways and these five evidence-based actions can help you feel better. They are simple, free things to do and the aim is to prompt you to consider what you can do to improve your own wellbeing, rather than focus on the things you can’t do in the current situation.

They are:
Connect with other people
Be physically active
Keep learning
Give to others
Take notice/pay attention to the present moment

Coming soon will be yoga sessions with Mrs Wreford (Teacher and Head of Philosophy, Religion and Ethics) but for the time being there are daily additions of activities and suggestions of things to do to calm anxious thoughts, keep you busy or to have a focus on. If anyone has any good ideas, then please email them in and I will share them on the various channels.

Take a look at the links below for some helpful suggestions to lift your spirits:

Firefly: https://intranet.tauntonschool.co.uk/wellbeing

TEAMS: https://teams.microsoft.com/#/school/ conversations/Wellbeing%20Centre?threadId=19:8dd782c858744 60293f0b33bc5b0715b@thread.tacv2&ctx=channel

Ed Burnett, Deputy Head and Head of Pastoral

Summer Break
Facilities

Taunton School pupils are now enjoying their summer break, however our admissions offices are still open for all enquiries.  We have a few places left for September and are happy to welcome families for personal visits whilst complying with the current safety requirements.

To find out more, please contact our friendly admissions team here, or explore our website for more information.