Scotland’s independent schools approached the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic like they would any other - by embracing the reality of the event and searching for opportunity within it. As school buildings were forced to close, a door to innovation was opened.
They adapted many of the strengths that SCIS schools are already renowned for, including exam preparation, maintaining pupil wellbeing and utilising technology, to combat the challenges of COVID-19.
Find out how schools embraced innovation throughout the pandemic in this blog…
Supporting pupils during lockdown
The loss of a face-to-face learning environment unearthed a new challenge for schools - monitoring the effect that this had on pupils' mental health and wellbeing.
Independent schools benefit from low student-to-teacher ratios and during lockdown, staff doubled down on their engagement with pupils to make sure they were being supported. This included working flexibly to overcome issues such as slower broadband speed under the pressure of many family members using the internet at once.
Melvyn Roffe, Principal of George Watson’s College told us:
“The main thing was ensuring we were all keeping in touch, for instance through our number of workshops and specific activities over the period such as ‘Feel Good February’. Our priority was sustaining communication routes for pupils while they were at home and creating opportunities for them to talk about their issues.”
Like all other independent schools, George Watsons’ College successfully hosted parents’ evenings completely virtually to keep parents in the loop regarding their child’s wellbeing, as well as their grades. Email, newsletters and social media were utilised to keep lines of communication with pupils and parents strong whilst working remotely.
To find out the important lessons that George Watson’s College learned during the pandemic, read the blog here.
Taking technology for learning to the next level
While iPads and Chromebooks were already commonplace for teachers and pupils alike in many independent schools - the pandemic paved the way for developing digital platforms even further and pupils have responded well and in many creative ways. Mark Ramsay, Deputy Head Teacher of Senior School at George Watson’s College, told us:
“Across the College, teachers and pupils have grown to become very creative with their use of technology. For example, the music department edited together videos of individual instruments being played into one combined performance. The P.E department likewise got pupils to ‘kick’ the ball to each other in an edited together video, which helped them develop their motor skills as well as their digital skills.”
Indeed, many of the practices introduced in independent schools during the pandemic are here to stay. At George Watson’s College they have used this opportunity to connect with thought leaders from around the world:
“We have developed our online learning platform, GWC Plus, which has been successful and we will keep on. This has included inviting visiting speakers who could never have usually come to school – for example the leading philosopher Professor Peter Singer who joined an Advanced Higher lesson on his own work from his base in Australia.”
Today, young adults need to be totally comfortable and confident with the digital technologies used today in the workplace and the pandemic has been the perfect opportunity for teachers to enhance their digital skills.
The benefit of independent schools during a crisis
Since the pandemic there has been a surge in enquiries from parents who are considering sending their children to an independent school.
This rise in interest is largely due to the autonomy our schools have to make the decisions that are in the best interests of our pupils - as and when they are required. During the pandemic, independent schools were able to respond in a timely manner and maintain our high standards of education and pastoral care.
Independent schools are naturally inclined to innovate and during the pandemic this allowed us to effectively adapt and even thrive throughout unprecedented changes.