Due to the coronavirus outbreak, schools across the UK have been closed – education has gone digital overnight. Leo Dudin, Deputy Head (Academic) of Oakham School explains how schools can adapt to online learning

In the blink of an eye, parents across the world have become teachers, and teachers have scrambled to re-apply their knowledge and skills to teach remotely. Pupils used to being in close quarters with their peers now find themselves alone, in front of a screen. Coronavirus has caused a whirlwind of change, with everyone having to master new technologies and techniques, but as we settle into the realities of this new era of education, there are some ‘on screen’ smiles to be seen.

The challenge for schools

At Oakham, we decided that in this new digital world of education we wanted to prioritise the relationships within our community. We have fully embraced two-way virtual teaching, rather than simply setting work to be done remotely without any interaction or feedback. Also, Oakham’s timetable has been structured to allow pupils to ‘meet’ daily with their House or tutors, which is even more important than usual.

In putting relationships and interactions at the heart of our online learning approach, it was clear that Microsoft Teams fitted our needs as it easily allows video discussions with a whole class of pupils. It’s proven up to the job, enabling teachers to share screens as they live-stream lessons, incorporate their pre-recorded content, and for pupils to submit work.

The challenge for pupils

Our new timetable has shorter lessons and longer breaks, giving pupils the time and space to adjust to the rapid changes they are facing. We would strongly advise parents to go gently on children if they are putting timetables in place for their learning. 

The challenge for parents

As a boarding school, Oakham is well-versed in offering support to our parents in all areas, so we have created a series of guides to help parents navigate their way. Advising them on everything from how to create a positive learning space at home to how best support children with their studies and their wellbeing. We’ve signposted yoga resources (Yoga with Tim), mindfulness apps (Headspace) and online support groups, as well as funny family films that are guaranteed to raise a smile if isolation becomes overwhelming.

At times of crisis such as these, it becomes clear what is important. For us, it is that human relationships are at the heart of education. Face-to-face interactions and relationships matter and bring learning to life. By continuing to place a premium on maintaining relationships first and foremost, I believe Oakham has seen success. 


Further reading: Tips for homeschooling your children during COVID-19 crisis