How Kirkcaldy's high schools are meeting the challenges of teaching in lockdown

Derek Allan headteacher at Kirkcaldy High working from home during the coronavirus lockdown.Derek Allan headteacher at Kirkcaldy High working from home during the coronavirus lockdown.
Derek Allan headteacher at Kirkcaldy High working from home during the coronavirus lockdown. | User (UGC)
Teaching remotely is a huge challenge for teachers in schools across the country during the coronavirus lockdown.

But headteachers at Kirkcaldy’s four secondary schools have been rising to that challenge by coming up with creative ways to continue teaching pupils, without being in the classroom.

These include reinventing their school online via social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, using other digital tools like video conferencing and online portals to send out homework tasks for young people to complete, and encouraging pupils to follow aspects of a ‘timetable’ without it feeling oppressive.

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Kirkcaldy High is just one school which has adapted to teaching online, and this has included re-naming the school on one of its social media platforms to reflect the current circumstances.

Headteacher Derek Allan explained: “We have re-invented KHS as “KHS in the Hoose” (the new name for the school’s Twitter account) and to have done this within a few days has been a remarkable achievement.

“All credit to our technicial team, which reconfigured so many devices for home use within hours –it was like “war work” frankly – and to the teachers, who suddenly had to become experts in video conferencing, Microsoft Teams and other digital platforms,” he said.

“We also had to ensure that the welfare aspect of our work could continue, so all pupils were given a mobile phone contact for their guidance teacher or keyworker. This is working well and we continue to be a frontline agency in child protection, despite the physical dislocation for now.”

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He said teachers have been sending out a massive amount of tasks to pupils.

“We already used an online portal called ‘Show My Homework’ and this has been very useful.”

Many teachers are also using GLOW – a national safe and secure online community for pupils, parents and teachers. It’s an award-winning national intranet for education, developed exclusively for Scotland’s educational community to enhance and support pupils’ learning.

They are also using Microsoft Teams, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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“We’ve tried to keep it a bit flexible because it’s how the kids operate, through a variety of channels,” he said.

“Of course things are a bit different for our SQA candidates, now that the exams have been cancelled.

“Some teachers have begun to introduce resources for the next phase of learning, maybe moving from National 5 to Higher.”

Mr Allan said the feedback from parents to remote learning has been fantastic, and this was appreciated by the staff.

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He continued: “Thanks for all the comments by email and on social media. A few families have been concerned that their kids can’t quite keep up with everything and we have been keen to stress that they are not expected to ‘home school’.

“It’s just about helping us to keep young people in touch with learning as best we can.

“Kirkcaldy High in the Hoose is not the same as Kirkcaldy High in the School.

“ However, in the long run, this could have such a positive impact on the way kids interact with learning on a basic level. Families have also valued the hotline approach we have, with all pupils having a mobile phone contact number for their guidance teacher.”

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Mr Allan revealed his top tips for parents home schooling and keeping their children motivated including encouraging some aspects of a timetable without it feeling oppressive – allowing flexibility, but as the weeks progress, those undertaking new courses at Higher need to take it more seriously.

He continued: “Taking time out to do things together as a family (within the public health guidelines) and trying to relax at home if they can. Taking time over the little things and lastly, but most importantly, staying in the hoose!”

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