Home   Maidstone   News   Article

Coronavirus: How Kent schools are rising to the challenge after Boris Johnson ordered closure

From birthday sing-alongs via Zoom, online P.E classes and a Youtube channel, schools in Kent are adapting to life in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

On Friday, schools closed after a Government order, while still accepting vulnerable children and the offspring of key workers.

Children of key workers at Waterinbury Primary School yesterday
Children of key workers at Waterinbury Primary School yesterday

Yesterday Britain was placed in lockdown, with the population's movements restricted further, resulting in even more pupils staying at home, according to two schools bosses who spoke to Kent Online.

Julie Derrick is CEO of Valley Invicta Academies Trust, overseeing the education of about 5,000 pupils at three secondary and five primary schools in west Kent.

The trust has kept open two hubs, one at Alylesford Primary School and another at East Borough Primary School.

On Monday, there were 60 pupils across both sites, but today that number has dwindled to 40. From tomorrow, only the Aylesford site will be open, with between six to eight staff members present.

Mrs Derrick said technology had been key to ensuring a smooth transition for the pupils who are learning at home, with them following the same curriculum as their classmates at school.

Julie Derrick, CEO of Valley Invicta Academies Trust Picture: Simon Hildrew
Julie Derrick, CEO of Valley Invicta Academies Trust Picture: Simon Hildrew

She said: "For our primary children we have set up online resources and for our secondary we have set up virtual classrooms. We are using Microsoft Team and Zoom. All the students are following their timetable and logging in at the right time, then having a live video conference with their teachers.

"They are still having their normal morning tutor period. This morning it was one pupil's birthday and everyone sang to them."

The school also want to set up light-hearted online competitions and this morning all pupils took part in anP.E session, with the children at home following the online video in their living rooms.

Arts and crafts and musical activities are also keeping the children at school entertained.

"Staff are also all talking to each other via WhatsApp and making suggestions, if you don't look at your phone for one minute you get about 30 messages," Mrs Derrick said.

Children of key workers at Waterinbury Primary School yesterday
Children of key workers at Waterinbury Primary School yesterday

The biggest challenge has been adapting to a constantly changing situation.

"It's a huge undertaking but we are in control. All credit must go to our staff who are working above and beyond.

"I think it's understanding the immediacy and severity of the situation, getting the message across about social distancing and getting families to understand we are taking this seriously."

Chasey Crawford-Usher, head teacher of Wateringbury Primary School, had to wish her pupils goodbye over speaker phone on Friday because she is self-isolating, due to a chronic lung condition.

The head, however, is still overseeing operations from her home, with nine students in class today and two teachers. Like Valley Invicta Academies Trust, this number has dropped since yesterday, from 14.

Chasey Crawford-Usher, head teacher at Wateringbury Primary School
Chasey Crawford-Usher, head teacher at Wateringbury Primary School

Staffing is an issue, as many teachers have their own school-age children at home and a rota has been set up to decide which employees will go into school.

One solution to this problem is to have clear communication and not bombard teachers with too many emails, so they still spend time with their families, Mrs Crawford-Usher said.

Staff are ensuring children at home are following the same curriculum as their classmates in school, with every teacher setting work.

Kids are also having plenty of fun in school, with arts and crafts and outside playtimes.

Aims include setting up a Wateringbury Primary Youtube channel and ensuring children who received free school meals get supermarket vouchers.

Children enoy drawing at Wateringbury Primary School yesterday
Children enoy drawing at Wateringbury Primary School yesterday

Mrs Crawford-Usher is worried that the school's closure could lead to the attainment gap widening between advantaged children and the less well-off.

She explained that some families might not have a quiet space where the child can work, or parents might not be able to help their child reading and writing as much as they would like to.

Speaking about the situation in the UK currently, she said: "I feel like we are in a nightmare and I have to pinch myself, but we are going to get through this together."

News from our universities, local primary and secondary schools including Ofsted inspections and league tables can be found here.

To get the latest Coronavirus news and guidance, click here

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

Read more: All the latest news from Kent


More by this author


Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More