Toby Lester
3 minutes length
Posted: 4th June 2020

Durrington MAT utilise tech to support teaching and learning during closures

Under the government’s ‘conditional plan’, the country is slowly coming out of lockdown. While stringent measures remain in place, the education sector is leading the way with a phased return for select year groups and secondary schools throughout June.

Leadership teams are proactively powering on in the face of adversity to support their students. We caught up with IT Director at Durrington MAT, Alex Robbins, to hear how the trust has dealt with closures and what the team is doing to prepare for the future. 

Business as usual 

“In these strange and surreal circumstances, as a trust, we are actually close to business as usual for our students. A small number of staff are working onsite on a rota basis to oversee key worker students and students with specific educational requirements. We have a very interactive system in place, with teachers delivering lessons online using Zoom and Google Classroom; we’ve set our usual school-day schedule up so students and teachers are learning and teaching as usual – just remotely!” 

Social distancing 

“During closures, we’ve had approximately 25 students on site. We moved our primary school provision to a pavilion within the grounds of our high school, freeing up space to support social distancing measures. We have utilised our IT suites across our sites, so we have a small number of students working, positioned two metres apart.” 

Digital and operations 

“Many aspects of our digital strategy have changed as a result of closures.  For example, we currently support an onsite telephone system, so have been working to migrate key pastoral staff over to a cloud system, enabling staff to answer calls off-site.” 

“Our IT team has taken advantage of an empty school to get ahead of the game; we’ve brought many projects forward and carried out software updates across sites. In the long term, this means that our systems will be ready to support a greater volume of digital learning when students are phased back.” 

“The lockdown has certainly progressed our digital strategy, particularly around remote working and learning. I believe our reliance on digital resources will continue to grow, even when classroom learning is back to normal. The vast majority of our staff are currently working remotely, meaning they’re accessing vital data online in order to do their jobs, be that student, administration or finance.” 

Engagement and safeguarding 

“Staying in touch with families has been a top priority of ours. We’ve used ParentMail very regularly throughout lockdown. Staff can access the platform from home and send targeted emails to year groups and classes.” 

“Our pastoral staff team have been responsible for engaging with families; we phone every single parent once a week, just to check in and make sure they’re okay. For us, communication with students was important; we have a brilliant community and the way we’ve pulled together to ensure business as usual has been fantastic.” 

Looking forward 

“We know how important a flexible approach to remote learning is to student development. We’re still educating and progressing student outcomes which speaks wonders for our remote digital strategy. Previous barriers to remote learning didn’t enable us to do this, but we’ve adapted our processes and invested where necessary and the students are benefitting as a result.” 

“Closures have given us a great understanding as to how the digital strategy could work as the trust grows. Similarly to businesses and organisations in the private sector, I think in my team, at least, we’ve rapidly developed our practices to ensure we don’t need to be based at our desks. Looking forward, this is the level of flexibility we want.” 

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