Remote learning hailed a success - Hurstpierpoint College

Remote learning hailed a success

With the Summer term drawing to a close this week, Hurst’s remote learning programme has been hailed a success by pupils and parents alike.

Spurred into action back in March and with little time to plan, the cloud-based network transition project which was six months away from completion, was accelerated rather rapidly and completed in just a few weeks. Hurst Online allowed teachers and pupils to access all the information required from any device and lessons were delivered through Microsoft Teams.

The priority from day one was to continue with a near-normal timetable. The only concessions were slightly shorter lessons with longer gaps between to reduce screen time; synchronising Prep and Senior School timetables to allow siblings in two different parts of the college to break for lunch together; and an earlier finish each day, without losing any of the co-curricular activities. The programme of assemblies, sports sessions, choir and orchestra practices, music, drama and dance rehearsals, activities and CCF sessions, meant the regular rhythms of Hurst life continued and pupils remained active, fit and healthy.

The Outdoor Ed department began the lockdown with a few mini challenges which involved pupils finding something in their house to climb around or over, as windows, doors, and garden walls proved popular. Next up was the ‘Chair and Table Challenge’ – climbing under and back over; and a ‘Tin Can Challenge’, focusing on balance, when baked beans were the most popular. Blessed with good weather in the second half of term, the virtual challenges of Lands’ End to John o’ Groats and the Hebridean Way were launched when parents and siblings joined pupils to rack up the distance by running, walking, and cycling.

In lieu of the Junior Top House competition, which did not lend itself to an online format, a weekly quiz was sent out via Microsoft Forms. Each week there were 16 questions taken from the Top House archive, and students were entered into a prize draw for an Amazon voucher. The average score hovered around the 9-10 mark, and the weekly number of entries was always in excess of 100.

Over the past few months, the Music Department has put together a virtual choir for virtual chapel offerings every week. Seven different anthems were produced this term, all of which are visible on the college YouTube channel. In a long process, members of staff produced the accompaniment before the students were able to video themselves singing along to the accompaniment, and then another member of staff edited the videos to produce an amazing final result. This process was also carried out for the Shell musical Fame and for the college musical Les Mis to create videos of pupils singing for Prize Day. The Leavers’ Service included over 70 videos of pupils, their families and staff singing Jerusalem together. Hurst ‘n’ Brie, one of the college’s three annual rock concerts, took place virtually and included soloists and groups who recorded (and edited) themselves.

In Pre-Prep and years 3/4 the new way of learning focused on live numeracy and literacy lessons in the morning with creative and science-based tasks in the afternoon, together with one-to-one reading, before classes came together at the end of the day for story time. Throughout June, Pre-Prep pupils took part in a virtual sports day from their homes, competing in a variety of events including long jump, egg and spoon, 50m or 70m sprint and 400m. Then on Wednesday, all Pre-Prep pupils competed against other children within their bubble, observing the distancing and hygiene measures, in an on-site sports day, taking part in traditional track races including the 60m sprint, hurdles, egg and spoon and sack race. Prep School pupils came together last Friday to take part in the annual Heroes Fun Run to raise money for Hope House Haiti (UK) which supports Hope Christian Academy in Haiti. Pupils from Years 3-6 donned hero-themed fancy dress, as those on-site observed social distancing and those who were unable to join in at school went to huge efforts to be part of the event, with some outstanding performances from Year 7 and 8.

The shock announcement that public examinations would not take place left a void for the affected pupils in Year 11 and Upper Sixth. Year 11 students began their Sixth Form studies with three or four A-level subjects plus an EPQ, and the Upper Sixth were offered pre-university courses, life skills, academic extension and social events. These two programmes were much appreciated by students and parents. The Upper Sixth life skills programme included cookery workshops featuring Mr Mott’s Meatballs, Mrs Jacques’ Coca Cola Chocolate Cake, Mr Manly’s Chocolate Brownies and Mr Leeper’s Chicken Veronique. Whilst the Business and Economics departments provided seminars on student finance, time management and basic laundry; Mrs Leeper delivered a session on preparation for university life and Mr Higgins showcased his mechanical skills with a car maintenance workshop. A group of students led by Mr Jones worked through the Barclays Life Skills programme and a separate group worked with Miss Fielden on CVs, interviews and careers advice.

Other new and innovative developments included remote exams – replicating exam conditions through Teams – and a remote parents’ evening for the Lower Sixth. Remote exams were also introduced for all year groups to end the school year.

In the final few weeks of term, a number of year groups in the Prep and Senior Schools were welcomed back for in-school programmes – in their respective bubbles – including house and tutor catch up time, outdoor assemblies, inter-house activities, sports days, house activities and coached sporting activities.