Wycliffe College expert insight: How Wycliffe College is keeping pupils safe during lockdown

While remote learning can be tough on students’ mental health, staying connected, talking to someone you trust and even getting a plant for your desk can help make it easier – according to Wycliffe College.

By Chloe Gorman  |  Published
Boarding and day pupils at Wycliffe College have regular virtual catch ups, with staff looking out for them and having access to professional help if they need it, during lockdown three.
Boarding and day pupils at Wycliffe College have regular virtual catch ups, with staff looking out for them and having access to professional help if they need it, during lockdown three.

With England currently in its third national lockdown, students and families are once again adjusting to the challenges of remote learning – and while learning from home wherever possible is vital to keep students safe, it can also be tough on their mental health.

SoGlos spoke to Wycliffe College about what it’s doing to help its boarding and day students stay safe and well during lockdown – from live online lessons to virtual pamper evenings.

About the expert – Helena Grant, head of Wycliffe College Prep School

Growing up in Hong Kong, Wycliffe College Prep School head, Helena Grant, attended boarding school in the UK, which provided a wealth of opportunities. With a passion for education, Mrs Grant went on to teach at schools in Tanzania and Kenya, before joining Wycliffe College in September 2020.

Wycliffe College is a day and boarding school in Stonehouse, welcoming boys and girls aged three to 18-years-old. It encourages a pioneering spirit, aiming to develop students into confident individuals inspired to succeed.

For more information, visit wycliffe.co.uk.

What does lockdown mean for schools?

It means creativity, communication and connection – keeping a community connected. The conundrum in a lockdown situation is how to bring together all of these three factors – creativity in how to teach remotely in an engaging, meaningful and productive way; communication between parents, teachers, colleagues, pupils so that everyone knows what they are doing; and connection – the most important element of all. How to keep a community together remotely, which can only happen with meaningful connection between and amongst all members of the school.

How does remote learning work for students? Is it different for boarders and day pupils?

At Wycliffe we pride ourselves in there being no difference between boarders and day pupils in terms of their academic access. Our full curriculum, including games, music, drama and art are all available through live sessions, which are backed up by high quality learning resources.

What does lockdown mean for boarding pupils specifically?

For our boarding pupils who are in their boarding home here on site, they join lessons remotely like the rest of the school, sitting in the same room as our day critical worker pupils, but then they head ‘home’ for late afternoon and the evening.

What is of vital importance is the ‘connection’ element here – we feel that it is important to keep the whole house connected and so in the evenings and at weekends there are virtual check in sessions connecting our boarders who are at home and on site.

For example, this weekend our girl boarders who are in house have sent pamper packs to the girl boarders who are at home, and the will all join a Teams meeting to have a pamper evening together; while the boys are going to discuss our ongoing project of creating an awesome video of trick shots. They will be able to share their clips, enjoy each other’s company and share ideas together remotely. On Wednesday evenings the girls’ and boys’ houses also come together to take part in a weekly quiz with prizes available.

How can students take care of their mental health during lockdown? Are there any exercises that children can do, or that families can do together?

There is so much! We talk a lot about strategies for wellbeing here and this week, for example, we are celebrating how having house plants can boost your physical and mental workspace.

Families can take part in low stakes activities such as doing a jigsaw or watching a good film together and playing music in the house is always an excellent way of lifting and enhancing the spirit in a home.

Exercise is hugely important and at Wycliffe we have both live and recorded sessions available and everything from circuits to yoga; Strava running and cycling challenges through to Pilates.

‘Having something to look forward to’ has been my mantra since about October 2020 when we first started realising that the winter was going to be tough.

What are the signs to look out for that a child might be struggling with their mental health during lockdown? What can be done to help?

So much of this is about being proactive – it is about looking at pupils we already know are vulnerable, identifying those who struggled last lockdown with remote learning and making contact individually with them. Teachers and pastoral staff will look out for them especially.

The signs we look out for are not wanting to turn videos on in lessons, submitting work which is below the standard they would usually attain, not engaging with the extra house competitions and behaviour changes in class or on site if they are accessing their learning here.

We know our pupils well, so recognising a change in behaviour or engagement is a key part of this also.

What help and support is available to boarders during lockdown?

The key here is that they have access to their trusted teachers and friends. Each pupil below Year 6 has a class teacher who is their first point of call and from Year 6 upwards they are part of a tutor group. These class teachers and tutors meet twice a day in a live meeting to check in and gather feedback to see how they are doing.

Each pupil is also in a vertically grouped house, which is led by a pastorally strong head of house. The heads of house set weekly challenges to bring their house together and house points keep mounting up during online learning so that the sense of competition remains.

The boarders have access to their house parent who proactively contacts the pupils to ensure that they are doing okay, through evening check ins for anyone who wants to pop in or have a chat. The boarders also have mood boards which they colour at night to show how they feel at the end of the day, and we encourage a discussion of gratitude at the end of each day to bring it to a positive end. To help encourage sleep, house staff and boarders have a routine of drawing and reading before bed with some pillow spray and piano music while they nod off.

We also have a counsellor who is working online and if there is a pupil who is finding lockdown exceptionally tricky, we have professional help available.

What help and support is available for day pupils learning remotely from home?

This is very similar to above, with the exception that their support is added to by parents or guardians at home, of course.

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