When we received word that all schools in Shanghai were to transition to online learning, our academic team quickly took action, getting us up and running with a full online provision covering Early Years to our IB students starting Monday, 14 March.
At the same time, knowing full well that classes are only part of the picture, we implemented enhancements to our wellbeing programme to make sure that our students, staff, and families are well supported during the online learning period.
It is important to us to be proactive in addressing challenges.
"The transition to online learning can present serious disruptions to family routines," says Director of Wellbeing (Senior School), Pete Rogers. "It was important to us to be proactive in addressing these challenges and making sure everyone in our community has the resources they need to thrive."
Supporting Our Students
Students come first, whether in the classroom or online. We have done a number of things to enhance the wellbeing of students during the period of online learning.
- Our online provision is consciously built to provide maximum learning with minimum screen time. There are in-built breaks where students are encouraged to disconnect from the virtual world and exercise, play a musical instrument, write a story, do art, or get some sunshine.
- We also make sure the provision features regular opportunities for students to have fun and connect with classmates more informally. Our DUCKS and Junior School "Wake Up Shake Up" morning energy fests have been particularly popular, so much so that we have expanded them to allow more of our community to participate.
- From our 2020 experience we know that online Co-curricular Activities (CCAs) are an important part of keeping students engaged and positive. We are pleased to see how many students are continuing with CCAs during online learning.
- Transitions, even in the best of times, can be a challenge. For students who might need more assistance, we quickly put in place the logistics to continue providing social-emotional support with our College counselors through our online channels.
- Safeguarding is a priority for all of us. When we made the move to online learning, the College’s Designated Safeguarding Lead immediately circulated updated Safeguarding protocols to all staff containing additional guidance around online scenarios.
- We listen to our community. We are deeply committed to improving our online provision and a big piece of that is making sure that student, staff and parent voices are heard. To facilitate that we circulate weekly surveys which gather valuable feedback for us to reflect upon so that we are consistently providing the highest quality education to our students.
Supporting Our Staff
Online learning is no less challenging for our staff and we make it a priority to ensure they are well supported.
- Daily 15-minute sessions are held for staff who want to have a chat with colleagues over a virtual cup of coffee. Completely voluntary and hosted on a dedicated Microsoft Teams channel, these have been very well received by staff.
- In online learning, because there's no ritualistic aspect of "leaving the building for the day", there is often a temptation for staff to keep working well into the night. Our team leaders have built in protocols so that there are active breakpoints for staff to "switch off". Healthier and well-rested staff members will be able to continue their dynamic and engaging lessons.
- Relaxation and fun isn’t just for students. We've created optional online social events for staff such as the Dulwich Virtual Quiz which took place over the weekend where staff got together online along with our sister school in Puxi for some good nature competition.
Supporting Our Families
We know that online learning can be a significant source of added stress for families. We have taken several steps to support our families.
- Clear and rapid communication was a top priority. On Saturday 12 March DUCKS, Junior School and Senior School sent out the details of the online provision followed by virtual conference calls from each Head of School. We were ready to go with the full online learning provision on Monday 14 March and were happy to note that each school had nearly 100% attendance.
- Our Year 11 and Year 13 families were especially concerned about the impact of online learning on the IBDP and IGCSE exams. Senior School staff moved quickly to ameliorate any impact. We will continue to partner with parents and students to provide the most useful and up to date information as we learn of it.
- Finally, our staff pulled together a number of resources for families to draw upon as they adapt to the online learning mode. These resources include tips and strategies from the National Online Safety (NOS) organisation with whom we partner. NOS is an award-winning UK organisation whose mission is to empower teachers, school staff, parents and carers with the knowledge they need to keep children safe online.
Our students have been no less proactive about sharing their knowledge.
Several Year 11 Global Perspectives students completed an illustrated Physical Fitness Handbook containing practical tips for keeping up physical fitness during quarantine which they shared with Year 7 and Year 8 students.
Meanwhile, our Global Citizenship Prefect Team dedicated their weekly Global Citizenship Journal to wellbeing for online learning. It contains tips for staying healthy and resources such as breathing exercises to help people stay mindful.
Students taking ownership of their own wellbeing and supporting each others' wellbeing is something we greatly encourage at the College and we commend our students for stepping up in this challenging time.
We may be apart, but we are never alone. It's heartening for us to see the Dulwich spirit going strong in challenging times.