How one academy used the lockdown to transition to remote learning

Sukhjot Dhami

Sukhjot Dhami is Principal at Beacon Hill Academy in the West Midlands. Beacon Hill Academy is a mixed Secondary School of over 1,000 learners aged 11 to 16, in Sedgley, near Dudley, in the West Midlands. It is part of the local Dudley Academies Trust.

Website: www.beaconhillacademy.org.uk Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

When the country needed to close its schools due to coronavirus, like many schools nationally, Beacon Hill Academy found this challenging. All staff and learners in Beacon Hill Academy already had both email addresses and Active Directory login details, but our technology implementation in lessons was limited at this point. School closures forced us to accelerate using digital technology to support pupils’ learning and development.

We had started to move staff to the Cloud two years earlier, by migrating 90% of staff files per department to SharePoint sites. We were also encouraging the Senior Leadership Team to use Microsoft Teams at a basic level to collaborate on files and communicate with each other, but there was no use of Microsoft Teams in class lessons. 

As an Academy we had implemented TeamViewer for a small number of our SLT and admin staff to access computers remotely, but this was often unreliable and difficult to use, especially if the physical computer devices had been switched off.

Finding fast paced solutions

One of the biggest challenges we faced was upskilling staff to using Microsoft Teams, as many had not used it before. We also had not yet fully embraced the technology for our pupils. The DfE are offering schools free funding for training and installation of one of two digital education platforms, and after a discussion with our long-standing IT partner, RM, we confirmed that we would operate Microsoft Teams across the school – for staff and pupils.  

RM proved a great support for us at this time – they helped us reset all of our learner’s passwords to something memorable which they would already know, without having to send them to each learner individually in the post. This reduced a lot of the support queries immediately and like many young people, our learners were quick to adopt new technologies. They also had a web page with a number of videos and “Top Tips” that helped them learn more about the software.

As soon as pupils knew what their new passwords were, many were able to get on to Microsoft Teams and begin learning straight away, with little to no guidance. Where a learner did need some support, RM have been there for them, and – when appropriate – have been able to call on their relationships with Microsoft for the more complex issues.

Beacon Hill Academy has also been faced – like many schools – with challenges around ICT access for learners who do not have laptops. The DfE scheme to provide free laptops and 4G routers for disadvantaged learners has helped and we have also been creating work that can be accessed and used via mobile phones, converting voice over PowerPoints into MP4 files and using Microsoft Forms rather than worksheets, to engage with learners. Alongside this we’ve been offering free laptop hire, internet dongles, reward incentives and regular phone calls home to support families with home learning.

Looking to the future

The lockdown period proved challenging for everyone, but the education sector has adapted quickly and efficiently to support learners throughout school closures. We have found that support from parents and carers is key during these tough times and we made every effort to engage with parents and carers in order to help support their children at home. This was successful with many parents reporting they feel more confident using the online software to support their child.

It comes down to having the focus and commitment to move staff and learners who had never used software like Microsoft Teams before to producing all of their remote lessons on this platform. After some initial challenges we saw a significantly increased proportion of learners accessing and engaging with the software week on week.

As we now prepare to re-open our gates to all learners, we are determined to continue to use Microsoft teams within our lessons and across the school. I personally hope that schools up and down the country further embrace technology in their classrooms. Our aim is to ‘develop inspirational schools which instil ambition and desire in young learners, open their minds, widen their horizons and equip them to succeed in a challenging world’ and I think technology is a great tool in helping us – and others – to achieve this.

If you want to find advice and support to get your school online and make the most of digital education platforms, visit The Key today, or if you just want some advice on what to consider, RM have produced a very useful webpage on choosing the right integration partner.

 Looking for more resources to support your teaching and learning? Check out the best education technology resources on our sister platform EdTech Impact.

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now
Login

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"