I’m sure we’ve all been affected in some way by Covid 19 and the implications of lockdown but for me it has shown me just how resilient and motivated the staff and students here at King’s really are. We’ve all been working hard to maintain as normal a routine as we can and provide the support needed for our students to continue with their education.
Teaching art has not been quite the same and the small interventions I would normally make during the lesson in the studio have had to wait until each student submits their work. Technology is wonderful in allowing us all to communicate quickly and efficiently and students have been able to send images of their work at the end of each lesson so I can then provide some feedback and points for improvement. This has been fine in the main but those small points of advice, those small interventions, made in the lesson, really do enable students to stay on track and make better and faster progress and that is what has been missing from online lessons. The students have responded superbly well and have taken the instruction and advice to heart and we have been able to keep some momentum. It is useful to understand that not everyone will have paints, paper or other materials that we have in school so we adapted our approach and made use of apps and online resources and students have used iPads to work on.
I am normally on my feet all day at school and usually manage around 12,000 – 15,000 steps each day but lockdown and teaching online means that I’m sitting down far more than I’m used to so I have found that I’ve been spending time wandering around the garden in the time in between lessons just to keep the blood circulating and to get a bit of fresh air.
Older students, those in exam classes have been in the habit of keeping an online diary of their work and thought processes long before lockdown and this has enabled me to simply access their pages, provide feedback, make suggestions about the next steps so when we talk to each other in the next lesson we are able to maximise that time and I can give the right support for each student. They have been superb and not lost any momentum at all. They are well set up for next year. My heart goes out to those who would have sat exams this year. Thankfully they had completed their coursework but they were all in the middle of preparation for the exam component and were just not able to completely finish things off. It wasn’t how we wanted to end things for them but I am certain that they will come out with the right exam results.
One of my other responsibilities as a Head of Faculty is to develop the digital strategy for the school and needless to say we have been very busy in that regard. The strategy was launched in January and has stood up superbly well. Obviously, everything has accelerated and we are further along the road than we had originally planned but the support for students and the training for staff has been brilliant and I cannot express my thanks enough to those colleagues who have provided that training and those who have embraced the digital opportunities to provide the best education we can in the circumstances. It would be fair to say we wouldn’t be in such a strong position without a good plan and I’m very grateful to my colleagues on the Digital Strategy Working Group for all the work we have done these past three years
I’ve also been in school regularly, once a week, as one of the team who has been helping look after the children of key workers. The younger Junior School and Willow Lodge children have definitely kept me on my toes.
Being at home has been rather good, I’ve not missed the commute one bit nor a daily shave. Shorts are the way forward and I’m campaigning to adjust the staff dress code for when we return to school. I have enjoyed lunch outside on the patio in the sunshine with my wife who has also been working from home. She is a Graphic Designer and we did think that maybe work might ease off for her after a few weeks but it has not in any way and she has been very busy with ever-tighter deadlines. So the Downey household has been a busy one and time off has become important to both of us. My wife enjoys gardening and that has been her release whilst a good blast around the lanes of Cheshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire on my bicycle has kept me fit and healthy.
Now that I’m basking in the glory that is the summer break I can reflect a little on what we’ve been through since March and I’m very proud of how the school has gone about its business. I started this piece by saying how resilient staff and students have been and in the main that’s absolutely true. It’s not been easy and we have missed the daily interactions we have with each other but we have been able to continue. Students have been getting on with work and also have embraced a whole series of challenges that have encouraged their community spirit and sense of fun. The school community has stayed strong, we are looking forward to returning to a more normal routine. I’m certain it will be a happy, vibrant and purposeful place when that finally happens.