Virtual lessons are keeping pupils around the world up to date with their studies thanks to a top North Wales independent school’s pioneering use of an online classroom.
Students from Myddelton College in Denbigh are logging on to classes each day whether they’re in China, Nigeria or the Vale of Clwyd thanks to the magic of the worldwide web.
It’s helping them beat the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic which has meant that teachers and pupils have to stay apart to prevent infection.
In all but a handful of cases for Myddelton College students this has meant returning home but thanks to their familiarity with the Microsoft Office 365 system their transition has been seamless.
Headmaster Andrew Allman said: “We are running our normal timetable for every year group with six lessons a day, starting at 9:00am, each of them delivered via a video call on Microsoft Teams, where they connect with the teacher and students in the class.
“Our blended approach to education means that students always access lessons at Myddelton College through Microsoft OneNote, where the teacher can check and mark work, while also practicing essential written work when necessary.
“During the Covid-19 crisis, all lessons are continued to be accessed by students in the same way and the delivery through Microsoft Teams, means that the virtual classroom can be achieved and work can be completed the same way.”
“The teacher can see the class so knows who is there and can speak to them and communicate in writing.
“Every lesson is available online so pupils in China with an eight-hour time difference can log in and gain access at a time appropriate to them.
“I believe a number of schools have been struggling to get to grips with the system but all our staff and pupils are familiar with it and it has worked absolutely as it is designed to do.”
There has been a very positive response from staff and from pupils and their parents with the school currently drawing pupils from Spain, Germany, Russia, Thailand and Nigeria.
Mr Allman added: “It will mean that when we are able to resume normal operations that the students will be up to date and be able to pick up their studies as if they’d never been away.”
Thirteen-year-old Lili Tetley Young, a Year Nine student, lives in the Vale of Clwyd and the warm and sunny weather has meant she has even been able to attend lessons from the garden.
She said: “It’s been very good. It’s kept our routine the same along with the timetable as if we were in school.
“We use the app from Microsoft and the teacher calls us, we answer and we can hear the other students so that adds the atmosphere of a classroom.
“But you can have the lessons anywhere you want. Yesterday it was sunny and warm and I sat outside in the garden for some the lessons.
“We’ve been used to using the system at Myddelton College so it’s probably given us a bit of an advantage over other schools.
“It’s also kept us all in touch with our friends so it makes life more normal when at times like these it could be really hard so we’re all happier as well.”
Lili’s mum, Mary, is chair of Parent Voice, the school’s parent liaison group, and she has been delighted with the way the system has worked.
She said: “It means Lili has kept her routine and she is there at nine ‘o’clock every morning for her first lesson and they can see the teacher and interact with the class and get instant feedback.
“It’s been really important for them because they’re at crucial stages of their lives and being Able to have this routine and to be in contact with their friends is really important for their mental well-being.”
Another parents is Andrea Stone, from Ruthin, who has three children at Myddelton College, William, aged 14, in Year 10, Isabella, eight, in Year 12, and six-year-old Daisy in Year 11.
She said: “It’s been a massive help because I’m a dentist and a practice owner and there’s a lot of things to deal with right now and this has meant that the children have just been able to carry on with their routine.
“They have settled into it really well which has really taken the pressure off me because I don’t have to deal with home schooling – it would be very difficult to keep the children up to date.
“It’s been invaluable but they’re so used to using the system at school that when they brought it home it was just normal for them. They didn’t have to learn any new skills.
“I feel very lucky because when they went to Myddelton College no-one could have anticipated that this global crisis would happen but they have just been able to adjust. It’s been amazing really.”
Myddelton College, a co-educational day and boarding school has 240 pupils and 70 staff and was the UK’s newest independent school when it opened in the autumn of 2016.
It is the only school in North Wales with a 5G network and the Estyn Report issued last year praised the way the school celebrates its diversity, said that pupils’ behaviour was “exemplary” and was also impressed by the high level of support and guidance provided by the “committed staff”.