This page records the plans we made for ensuring that St Mary’s National School would continue to support teaching and learning in the event of a partial or full closure of our school arising from Public Health advice.
Prior to March 2020, Saint Mary’s National School was working on a plan to enable the provision of a virtual teaching and learning environment (VLE) during any public health restrictions when pupils/students were unable to attend school.
In terms of contingency for unexpected closures, it was anticipated that the school ICT infrastructure would continue to be made available to teachers and school leaders to facilitate continuity of learning.
Phase One: Training
In order to prepare for the provision of appropriate learning opportunities when normal school attendance was not permitted because of Public Health Advice, teachers were offered training in using the VLE, Seesaw, a platform very suitable for use in the Primary School.
Initially, staff from the Digital Learning Team engaged in online training in the use of virtual learning environments and passed this knowledge on to other staff members, both formally at Staff Meetings and in clusters informally.
We also engaged Wriggle Learning to provide on-site training for staff in best practice, using our iPads.
As part of our training plan, we engaged the services of Ms Michelle Brady, a cuiditheoir (facilitator) from the PDST, who gave generously of her time in assisting us to be ready for the implementation of this plan
In the event of a school closure, staff were to be encouraged to take and use a school iPad for their work from home, thus avoiding the need for the use of teachers’ personal computers, tablets or phones.
This was very important in maintaining the security of pupils’ personal information and is a requirement under GDPR.
To support staff, the Principal would make regular contact with teachers using Zoom sessions, through a dedicated staff Whatsapp group, which existed already, and via phone call, where appropriate.
Phase Two: Bringing Parents On-Board
At the beginning of the Pandemic, 13th March 2020.
Pupils in every class, from Junior Infants to Sixth Class, were issued with individual login codes, emailed to them via our communication platform, Aladdin, with clear instructions for parents on how to access and make use of Seesaw for teaching and learning. Hard copies and QR codes were also supplied.
This was very successful and parents were really appreciative of the opportunity to learn more about their child’s learning and connect in a more meaningful way with school life.
In the early days of the Pandemic in 2020, the Aladdin platform and the school website, https://smash.ie were key in providing up-to-date information to parents/guardians as the extent of the closedown became more and more apparent.
The website in particular was used as a resource bank, providing an enormous collection of links to educational and well-being websites to assist families come to terms with this unprecedented situation.
Following comprehensive trialling of Seesaw during the lockdown of Spring/Summer 2020, we are happy that in the event of another disruption in our pupils’ attendance at school, we are ready and capable of delivering, meaningful, appropriate and stimulating instruction and correction of work done, online.
Naturally, all households differ and engagement with the material sent home via email or using Seesaw varied widely, especially where there were several siblings needing to access one or two devices. Where parents were working from home this also presented many challenges to those in this situation.
Provision of appropriate support for those pupils with special educational needs was, and is of particular interest to our Special Needs department and is the subject of ongoing discussion.
We are happy that we used an appropriate mix of methods to support our pupils in this category, with Seesaw, Zoom sessions and phone calls to these families all used to ensure that both the pupils and their families felt supported during this extraordinary time.
A concern which became evident as time went on, was the problem of ensuring that ALL pupils had equal access to technology required to access the internet as well as the ensuring of a reliable and fast broadband service. The issue of reliable and speedy broadband had implications for staff delivering lessons over the internet as well as the pupils who were consumers of this instruction.
It is hoped that the Department of Education and Skills will address the issue of provision of technology for ALL children, regardless of means as well as the rolling out of fast reliable broadband to ALL citizens of Ireland.
The situation at present, (November 2020).
In cooperation with our cuiditheoir, Ms Michelle Brady, we are currently investigating the use of G-Suite, a free platform with many useful features to assist in the delivery of meaningful teaching and learning going forward.
This initiative is being led by the Digital Technologies Team and will focus on using this platform in the Middle to Senior School. Training will be done via Zoom sessions or similar in November and following months…
The situation at present, November 2020, is that Saint Mary’s National School is fully prepared and ready to implement age-appropriate, engaging instruction on the internet if this is required.
Digital Technologies Coordinator