Principal's Breakfasts enable pupils to talk about highs and lows of lockdown

Learning remotely has been something that pupils and staff alike have had to get to grips with since lockdown  and Ms Edis recently caught up with different year groups to find out how they are faring

Over the past three months of lockdown, virtual learning has proved to be a steep learning curve, not only for the teaching staff, but for pupils and students as well. While it can never be a replacement for face-to-face tuition in the classroom, staff and pupils alike have learned how to make the best of the situation. But despite the challenges it has posed, most of the Bolingbroke community has coped valiantly.

To find out just how the pupils are faring, Ms Edis has been holding a series of online Principals’s Breakfasts with a selected group of pupils from each year group to talk to them about their experiences of lockdown and learning from home, and also their thoughts on a number of issues both close to home and of a more global interest.

First up was the Year 7 Breakfast, which was attended by Amelie, Ethel, Electra, Ada and Cicely. All agreed that not being able to see their friends and teachers was one of the biggest lows of living in lockdown. “It’s strange not being at school and seeing your friends,” said Cicely, while Amelie complained of boredom, saying: “Spending time indoors drives me mad – we live in an apartment” Ada missed the one on one attention from teachers, saying: ‘We can’t physically be with our teachers, and get the help we would if we were in the classroom. Electra, meanwhile said she found it frustrating that if she didn’t understand something it could take a while for teachers to respond.

However, all agreed that they enjoyed more flexibility in their days, and being able to choose what times they worked. “You can choose to spend more time on subjects you like, and can spend more time with your family and learn new things,” commented Ethel.

Electra also liked the fact that everything has slowed down. “We are no longer rushing around from school to home. “Ada added that she enjoyed being more independent, and being able to prove to the teachers that they were able to work on their own.  Amelie, meanwhile, said that another benefit of lockdown and home learning has been that it has helped to make her more organized. “I am bad at this, so am working on this!” she said.

The entire group felt that the recent Black Lives Matter protests were a good thing, though they didn’t necessarily approve of the violence which erupted during some of the marches. “My brothers and sisters went on the protests,” said Electra. “However, it is selfish for people to be violent and destroy statutes. It makes it bad for people who are trying to protest peacefully.

Cicely pointed out that while the protests were important, she was worried about the lack of social distancing. “There could be another way of doing it so that people aren’t all in the street,” she said. “They could write to the Government, for example. But it’s good that people are showing they care.”

When asked what they were most looking forward to when school reopened, seeing friends and teachers was at the top of the list. “I am looking forward to family dining, sitting with friends, and lessons, along with paired work,” said Amelie. Electra was also looking forward to family dining as she often eats alone at home. Ada agreed. “It would be lovely to see everyone and do family dining. I will look forward to lunch the most because I’ll be able to play on the common and sit with my friends. “ Cicely was also looking forward to getting back to the classroom and “not having the whole lesson on your shoulders and having discussions about the work.”

The year 8 pupils who attended Ms Edis’Principals Breakfast were Pooja Benjamin, Milla, Jules and Amelie. As with the Year 7 group, the pupils agreed that they really enjoyed the flexibility of being able to learn at their own pace and choosing what hours they worked. “You can spend more time on things you find difficult,” said Benjamin, while Jules said: “As long as you complete your work by 3.30pm you can do it whenever you want.”

Amelie also enjoyed the fact that she had more free time to do hobbies such as art and baking. Missing friends was the biggest issue the group had with lockdown, while most commented on the fact they were missing playing sport and other extra curricular activities. “If we can’t do sport in September I’d feel sad and would play sport on the common instead,” said Milla. “You need to keep healthy and it’s fun.”

When asked what they would like the Prime Minister to announce regarding secondary schools, the group were unanimous in that they all wanted schools to reopen in September. Amelie said she just wanted to get back to the “normal way life was” and normal education, while Jules said there was no point in having two weeks before the summer holidays and that September would be the best time for schools to open their doors.

Regarding the BLM issue, Benjamin said it was good that people were protesting, but condemned the violence and looting of stores. “It’s disturbing to see people upset that their shops have been raided,” he said. Amelie said she agreed that taking down statues of those associated with the slave trade was a good thing, showing that we stand against racism, adding that it was important for everyone to be educated about the subject.

The Year 9 Breakfast meeting with Ms Edis included Lila, Eliza, Phoebe, Darcey and Douce, and all agreed that they enjoyed dictating when and where they worked. “I get to do stuff in my own time, and I can make my own timetable,” said Darcey. “I have the whole day to complete my work and it is relaxing.” Douce agreed, and pointed out that another benefit of setting your own timetable was that she got to enjoy a bit more of a lie in! “I like MS Teams and the quizzes are fun,” she said. However on the downside, Phoebe pointed out that it can be hard to stay motivated working on your own, and can make you feel less positive about work, while Darcey said that remote learning made it more difficult to connect with the teachers.  Douce added that working in isolation could also be quite boring, though at least she was able to call her friends. “Not knowing when we are coming back to school is hard,” she said.

As for Year 9’s aspirations for when they return to school, Lila said she thought they would all be grateful to get back to normal, adding, “some people have had technical issues or have found the work hard to understand. Catch up session will be good, though we’ll have to stay apart and it will be hard not to go outside. Maybe we should do half days and then we can also socialize.”

Phoebe felt that distance learning lent a certain confidence. “When you’re behind a screen you can say whatever you want, but it’s more embarrassing if you say something stupid in class as you can see people’s reactions.” However, she conceded that socializing in lessons is important.

Darcey just wanted things to get back to how they were as quickly as possible. “It will take time to adapt because it will be a long time since we were at school. It will be weird to be back in class to start with, we will have to get used to wearing a uniform again and speaking in class.”

When asked, in an ideal world what time they would like to see school start and finish, there was a very mixed response. Lila favoured 9am – 3pm, as she said this would allow enough time for socializing after school without having to do extra work at home. “If we can’t have a break with our friends then half days of 9 – 12 would be better,” she said.

Darcey said that  10am-2pm would be best, while Phoebe rather optimistically suggested 12 – 1, and Douce 11.30 – 12.

On the BLM theme, Douce said it was “very sad” about George Floyd death, but said that social media had been helpful. “There are lots of petitions there and ways you can help,” she said. “It’s really important that people are fighting for equality. I support it but being violent makes us as bad as the police.” The final word on the matter went to Phoebe she said: “People are being murdered because of the colour of their skin. It’s not OK. BLM is bringing attention to the cause.”