Just over a year and a half ago all Qatar schools were told to close because of the Covid-19 pandemic and so began what has been a very different learning journey for staff, pupils and parents.
Schools faced the challenge of enabling their pupils to continue their education through Remote Learning and later, through Blended Learning. This was a challenge which was enthusiastically taken up by teachers, pupils and parents at Sherborne Qatar, a leading British School in Qatar.
March to July 2019 saw Remote Learning and staff and pupils very quickly had to learn new ways of engaging in teaching and learning. Through the medium of the school’s Virtual Learning Environment staff in both the Prep and Senior schools set the pupils engaging and stimulating tasks which covered the whole curriculum. Supporting materials and videos were also posted to help the pupils fulfil these tasks. These ranged from a guide for parents to help their children in Reception with phonics and reading, to extension material to stretch and stimulate 6th Form pupils preparing for A Level examinations. Staff kept in contact with pupils through blogs and live ‘online’ sessions and pupils continued to receive feedback on work submitted and the next steps for their learning.
Pupils were encouraged to take the same approach to their work as they would do in school and ‘virtual’ attendance was very high and averaged 97%.
The Remote Learning programme was well received by pupils and parents alike. Typical of parental comment was one parent observing, ‘It has been positive and we appreciate how rapidly the school has responded to this extraordinary situation and how organised the teachers have been in providing learning materials.’ One A Level pupil commented that, ‘We were a little apprehensive as to what this would mean for our final preparations but the staff have been fantastic and the material they have supplying has been brilliant.’
For most of the 2020 – 2021 the academic year school was on Blended Learning, with half the pupils in school on any given day and half at home. In the Senior School the use of technology enabled pupils to participate in their 1200+ weekly interactive classroom lessons on their ‘at home’ days and, on their ‘at home’ days Prep School pupils completed work they had been set to take home. There were clear Covid-19 protocols in place for everyone on site and it was most gratifying to see how quickly even the most nervous children quickly settled down and were delighted to be back in school. The resilience and positivity shown by the children has been remarkable. For a few weeks early in the Summer Term there was a return to Remote Learning but this time the IT skills which staff and pupils had mastered meant that there was live online teaching for the pupils all day every day.
There is no doubt that our Learning Dispositions – Creativity, Independence, Communication, Risk Taking and Resilience – have really come to the fore this year with staff and pupils in all the Sherborne Qatar schools developing and enhancing a whole range of new IT skills. In the Prep School the intention is to incorporate the Learning Dispositions and all the new IT skills which have been learnt within a new hybrid curriculum and Bring Your Own Device scheme as all the Sherborne Qatar schools move towards becoming Microsoft Schools.
Sherborne Qatar School for Girls has had the added challenge of opening and establishing its junior section in the middle of a pandemic. The approach to the year was similar to that used in the Prep School and that the school’s launch has been achieved so successfully is testimony to the hard work, dedication and enthusiasm of its staff and pupils. The Girls’ School is looking forward to the opening of the senior section at the start of the new academic year.
And so, one year into the coronavirus pandemic, we have had an opportunity to think about the experience we are all sharing and we are realising that it is creating an even stronger sense of community. We may not have the whole school community together at the moment but, in a very tangible sense, we are as united as ever, working in unison to provide the best education we can for our children. When we are able to resume normal schooling it will be with a renewed sense of optimism for the future and with the knowledge that the school’s belief in the human spirit, its values and particularly those of teamwork, perseverance and kindness have seen it overcome the challenge of these difficult times.
We collected a selection of teachers and pupils positive thoughts on their experience during the pandemic at this link.