Amesbury School

Kia ora koutou,

We are now about to head into our second week in level 3. As a community we are all working out how we live, work and learn in this new ‘normal’, adjusting and adapting as we go. We are very mindful that some parents are worried about their children falling behind in their learning if they are at home. Please be aware that this is not the case, and children are not missing out by being at home. We currently have 6% of our students learning onsite, with the vast majority of students all learning at home. Generally, teachers work with the knowledge that children learn in many different ways and through many different situations. We are very aware that learning is not just about content that teachers get across to students, but it is also about curiosity, wonderings, experiences and space to learn about the world and how it works. For further thoughts on this, please see this article I wrote several years ago about leaving space for the world to teach us. This is timely to consider at this point.

It is important to remind ourselves that through spending concentrated amounts of time with their families, our children will be learning a huge range of important things that will help them in the future. They will be learning about how we cope with the unknown, how we collaborate and work together, how we ‘make do’ and perhaps innovate when our usual resources and practices are not available. Our children may well be learning more about everyday tasks such as gardening, baking, cooking, using imagination and connecting with people in different ways. They will also be learning how to manage anxiety and fear of the unknown. This is all extremely important in learning how to live well in the world.

This is not to say that learning content and skills is not important. It is definitely important that our children can communicate, read and write, and understand how numbers and patterns work in the world. This will all help to keep opportunities and options open to them in their future. However, these skills can be learned in a range of different ways - it doesn’t have to look exactly like it does in school. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the ‘normal’ of the past was not necessarily the best outcome for everyone, nor the only way to do things. Perhaps we now have opportunities to see that there are different ways of 'being', and it does not need to look as it did pre Covid-19 in order to work well or be successful.

Our children will learn well whether they are at home or at school. Keep a balance of different kinds of activities within your family routine, in a way that works for you. Spend some time working through the learning pack each week. This should not take the same amount of time as the normal school day, as the school day also includes time for play, social interaction and exploration (such as myTime projects). In the learning packs teachers have included a suggested overview of a week for parents who are still looking for a daily structure that works for them. This overview is not a recommendation or particular school preference, it is simply one way you can choose to structure your time. Along with working on the home learning pack, also plan to have time where your children can explore and investigate the world for themselves, through play, self chosen projects or time by themselves away from screens. Tasks around the house, such as gardening, cooking, cleaning or sorting can also be good learning tasks for children, as well as great ways to teach children how to ‘pitch in’ and take responsibility as a group member.

As a staff we are all very aware of how difficult this time is for parents, trying to manage the very difficult balance of working and learning from home, managing family life when spending so much time all together without going out, and also possibly managing increased anxiety and fear of the unknown with the pandemic. We think you are all doing an incredible job. Please be aware that during this time your children will still be learning, it just may look different from the way it did before, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

For our ongoing learning packs, our teaching teams have made significant changes as we moved to level 3, building a website for each team to house all of the learning resources and instructions. We will continue to tweak and adapt these sites and the learning as we see how it all works. Teams are endeavouring to use more voice recordings and videos to help with direct teaching instruction, and we have also brought in optional weekly individual and small group online conferencing, to help students connect with teachers and their peers.

Please be assured that our onsite and offsite learning programmes are, essentially, the same. The learning at school is based on the learning packs you are getting at home. Our science inquiry will be introduced in the next learning pack (learning pack 5), and the experiments and learning in the home pack are the same learning activities that will be done face to face at school. This means that when students do come back to school, they will be at the same point in the inquiry learning as they are onsite at school.

As a side note, we have taken on board the feedback around the timing of sending out our learning packs each week. We realise that for some parents, receiving the pack on Wednesday mornings can be a little tricky. We were unable to change the timing of our packs last week, because teachers were only able to go onsite on Tuesday, and were still creating resources for the week on that Tuesday evening. However, from now on learning packs will be sent out on Tuesday evening, so that parents can look through them before Wednesday.

This week Public Health and the Ministry of Education will be working to create a set of guidelines around what schooling will look like during level 2. There will be public health requirements at level 2, and schools will receive support and guidance around what this will look like for schools and early childhood centres. As we learn more about this, we will be in touch with you to pass this information on. This will also enable us to plan and prepare ahead of the announcement on May 11th about whether we remain in level 3 or move to alert level 2.

Have a lovely week, and thank you again to you all for your continued hard work and support for our children’s learning.

Ngā mihi nui,

Urs Cunningham

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