Ludwick is a large (200 place), maintained nursery school in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. It is situated in the Peartree ward, which is an area of social and economic disadvantage. The school has a high number (20%) of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and a high number of children eligible for Early Years Additional funding for publicly funded schools in England to... More (29%), as well as catering for 32 children eligible for 2-year-old funding in the pre-school. The school caters for a diverse community with 14 different languages spoken.
Our main challenge was to ensure our families were supported during periods of home learning. Due to being a diverse community, with a high number of children with SEND, we needed to put a home learning curriculum together that was accessible to all. We needed to be mindful that many of our families did not have access to books and learning resources and that most were home schooling more than one child. We also wanted to ensure that our home learning offer reflected the school’s pedagogy.
We set out some key principles to guide our home learning:
- We wanted to ensure that our pedagogy and practice was still articulated and the messages that we promoted in school would still be clear remotely. For example – the importance of first-hand experiences and outdoor learning.
- We wanted our families to feel connected and supported and part of the school community. Therefore, we would need to use a number of different ways to stay in touch and some parents might need a more bespoke approach.
- Wellbeing of both families and staff needed to be a priority. We needed to be aware that both staff and families were all managing in different circumstances.
- Communication should be consistent and organised.
We planned a home learning offer that was varied, so parents could access the parts that suited them best. It included daily rhyme time Zoom sessions, a weekly story video with a plan of activity ideas linked to the story, a range of videos and resources to access on the schools website, weekly email contact with key teachers and home learning packs. For specific children, weekly phone calls were put in place from the key practitioner or A special educational needs coordinator – a teacher who is... More.
Each week, families were offered the chance to come to school to collect resources, library books and home learning packs. Home learning packs were connected to the story of the week and activities linked to that learning. For example, a week focusing on the book Wow, Said the Owl provided home learning packs with clay for making a birds nest, bird feed and instructions for making bird feeders and a scavenger hunt. Other resources offered included: cooking ingredients, recipe cards, play dough-making resources, number rhyme resources and puppet-making packs. Home learning packs were also personalised for children with specific needs, for example, packs with activities to support speech and language targets. For families not able to come to school, packs, resources and library books were delivered to their homes.
The main challenge was keeping track of family engagement, and having an overview of what they were accessing and who might need additional support. Key teachers kept ‘registers’ for Zoom sessions to keep track of who was attending, as well as keeping a note of who was accessing home learning packs. Families were encouraged to email in weekly, sharing photos and comments of their child’s learning. Any families that had not been in recent contact received a phone call or the offer of resources being dropped off.
Parents responded really positively to our Zoom sessions and story videos, particularly appreciating having an extra insight into school life and their children’s learning at a time when they could not come into school. This has made us reflect on how we could use these methods of communication in other ways, such as making parent workshop videos.
- Be creative – think about how you can offer your curriculum in engaging ways.
- Know your community and respond to their needs.
- Keep it personalised to ensure that strong connections are maintained.
Lucy Parker is Deputy Headteacher at Ludwick Nursery School, UK.