Parent/Carer Important Updates

Following today’s group call update to parents please find further updates here…

 

Scottish Government Updates – School Closure Extended

Following this week’s announcement that schools will remain closed until at least the middle of February, we will continue to provide online learning for all young people at home and those in school who are vulnerable learners or the children of key workers.

Thank you to all parents for continuing to review and communicate with the school in regards to their weekly access to the hub and for making extra considerations around daily needs – this is much appreciated and continues to ensure that we are working together to minimise unecessary contacts and reduce risks of transmissions as we follow national advice and see through what looks to be an increasingly challenging period.

We will continue to respond to ongoing or new enquiries but would continue to advice parents making an application for this keyworker provision should be considered an ‘essential only’ service and if parents are working from home then children should also remain at home (if in the care of a parent). Support for our vulnerable pupils will also continue as arranged.

All keyworker places are still subject to a vetting and review process through contact with employers (which continues to be on an ongoing basis).

We will await further information when this situation is reviewed and a further announcement is expected on 2 February from the First Minister. Providing the transmission rates have significantly lowered then it may be possible that schools can begin working towards a phased or blended return for children, however, any such developments will be subject to further national and local advice.

 

Class Online ‘Catch Ups’

As messaged earlier to day we are pleased to announce the trialling of pastoral/feedback class ‘catch ups’ using online conferencing. This is our first step into using our MyTeams platform and we hope (despite undoubted logistical and technical challenges) that this will be a positive experience for teaching staff and children to enjoy.

Please click below for the parent information letter (updated due to class names error!) and a pupil code of conduct guide to be used with the children whilst participating online.

Class Catch Up Information Letter to Parents

Teams code of conduct

A draft timetable has been created (featured in the letter) but this will still be subject to some tweaking/further planning between classes in order to accommodate class or group time-slots to be offered. This will likely develop over time as we trial, review and test this approach.

 

‘Well-Being’ Wednesday

In consultations with teaching staff, it has been agreed that there will now be more of a focus on wellbeing activities to be delivered on a Wednesday. There are a number of reasons why this will work well;

  • Teaching staff have been planning/contributing across stage partners to provide a variety of choice based activities (some of which will remain as Literacy and Numeracy based tasks) for children to select.
  • Encouragement of more alternative kinds of learning which will not always rely on being on a computer or device and will consider the wider curriculum.
  • Allowing protected time to ensure that health and wellbeing is not forgotten under the constant pressures of online learning that we are all experiencing.
  • Allowing protected time for staff for further personal planning/development time beyond the expectations of delivering online learning (as still still have a weekly entitlement to non-contact time and professional development beyond the online learning delivery).

Activities and further information will be posted by class teachers on Google Classroom (either as a choice grid or a series of activities) and we hope that this will allow some flexibility for learning engagement at home, in the keyworker provision at school and improved professional development support on a Wednesday for our teaching staff.

Online Library Services for Families

As Balmedie Library is still closed in line with current Government guidance, I would like to promote the free online Library resources that are available to everyone via the online poster below.

Aberdeenshire Libraries – Handout for parents

 

The link above includes information regarding online library membership and accessing digital materials from home.

If pupils/families are not library members, they can complete a free library membership form online at https://www.livelifeaberdeenshire.org.uk/libraries/become-a-member/

 

On Overdrive /Libby you’ll find some new ‘containers’.

Picture Books

New Stuff

Concurrent Loans – this might be useful for group reading

Read-alongs

Scottish Interest

Page to Screen

Science Fiction & Fantasy

World War II

Get active, get outside

 

Popular Online Books Trending now;

https://aberdeenshirelibraries.overdrive.com/library/kids

 

Here ‘s the link for the young adult section;

https://aberdeenshirelibraries.overdrive.com/library/teens

 

Debbie Barclay

Senior Library Assistant

T: 01358 281070

E: debbie.barclay@aberdeenshire.gov.uk

Website : https://www.livelifeaberdeenshire.org.uk/

BIG BALMEDIE BIRDWATCH

It is the RSPB Garden Birdwatch at the end of the month, we are going to try and make this the biggest Balmedie School Birdwatch ever!

Ongoing information and other activities have been posted to children via Google Classroom from today.

For those doing home learning, families can take part in Big Garden Birdwatch by following this link https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/

You can download identification sheets/info from the RSPB website and it may be worth getting some bird food ready!

As explained on our video (link and password below), you don’t need fancy feeders/food – bread, raisons and apples will also attract birds into the garden.  If you don’t have a garden, you can take a trip to a local park or just record any birds you can spot from a window.

To find out more you can follow Mrs Duncan’s video link below (also on Google Classroom);

https://vimeo.com/498637345
Password wearebalmedie

We are also excited that the BBC Winterwatchers Team will also be sharing some key skills to help you get outdoors and find out more about the birds in your environment with a very special Live Lesson at 11am on the 28th of January 2021.

The Big Schools Winterwatch Live Lesson – BBC Teach

 

English as an Additional Language Support for Parents (EAL Service)

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‘Aberdeenshire EAL Service produced help videos for the first period of lockdown to support families in accessing and using Glow, MS Teams and Google Classroom. These resources are available in English, as well as Arabic, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish and Russian. These resources may support any families who are still struggling with accessing learning from home https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/as/ealaberdeenshire/learning-at-home/#Videos

 

Please contact eal.service@aberdeenshire.gov.uk if you need any support’ or refer to the details on the poster link below;

EAL Consultation Time Poster for Parents

 

Parent Club – January Updates

Parent Club – Money Talk Team Campaign

January can always be a difficult month financially for families but given the pandemic more families than ever are feeling financial pressures. The Money Talk Team is a confidential and personalised service delivered by the Citizens Advice Network in Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government, offering families free financial advice and support during these tough times.

The campaign aims to encourage families to find out what benefits they are entitled to and what household bills they can save money on during these challenging times by contacting the Money Talk Team.

This will run on TV, digital, OOH, Radio and Social Media until the 4th of February, with activity sign-posting to the freephone number – 0800 085 7145 and the new Parent Club page: http://parentclub.scot/articles/who-are-money-talk-team

 

Parent Club – Winter Support Campaign

With the winter lockdown restrictions in place, we know that parents are struggling at this time, and we want to reassure parents that they are doing their best and let them know support is available via ParentClub.scot in the coronavirus hub, and also in the new Winter Lockdown Support Hub: Parentclub.scot/winter

The Winter Support Campaign started on Sunday, 10th January and is running on digital and social until the end of January.

 

Positive Parent Campaign

Being a parent is one of the best jobs in the world but we know it can be hard work, especially now. To help families manage the current challenges, we are re-running the Positive Parenting Campaign, which brings together tips on coping with the challenges of being a parent and keeping calm with your wee one so you can focus on building a rewarding relationship together. For more information visit: https://www.parentclub.scot/articles/coping-with-being-a-parent

 

Balmedie School Contingency Planning (COVID-19 online learning)

Learning and Teaching

As part of their learner journey, all children and young people in Scotland are entitled to experience a coherent curriculum from 3 to 18, in order that they have opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to adapt, think critically and flourish in today’s world.

 

Remote/Online Learning Information for Parents

It is crucial that pupils receive a consistent, equitable and quality entitlement, should there be a need to return to remote / online learning or blended learning models.

Video conferencing is now fully enabled for pupils and staff, in Glow, through Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom. This can allow remote / online learning to be delivered, where staff/schools feel now that this is an option they wish to explore.

There have been a variety approaches to remote learning across Aberdeenshire and each will have advantages and disadvantages, but teachers will have identified the best ways to support pupils over time, knowing that not one way will suit all pupils (and knowing that not one way will suit family circumstances whilst in a lockdown situation).

Aberdeenshire Council also have a site that parents / carers can access with support and resources for remote learning. The website link is: http://bit.ly/ShireDigitalSupport

 

Nursery Support

Our Nursery will be posting a video every day from staff with a story, songs or physical activity along with at home activity ideas for families.

They will be covering Literacy, Numeracy and Health & Wellbeing each day. These activities are all optional and when/if families are able to engage with any of these suggested activities then we would invite you to post photos or videos on the Facebook page or share them with us via your child’s online Learning Journal if/when you can.

For those families who do not have access to Facebook all the videos and suggestions will be emailed directly. Any further updates regarding the Nursery Hub and supporting Nursery families will continue be shared via their Facebook page and our school blog (based on any ongoing advice and developments emerging from our Nursery and council Early Years Team).

 

Balmedie Online Learning

Here are our Aberdeenshire online learning expectations for our children how this will be delivered/supported from Balmedie School (Primary 1-7 pupils);

Expectation How this will be delivered/supported via Google Classroom platform
A programme of learning and teaching shared on a weekly basis, with the tasks for the week ahead / containing resources and signposting resources to support learning / detailing times when synchronous learning could, if the school decides this is an option, take place. Some settings would put this out at the start of the week, others may take a staggered approach to this for example a daily delivery of tasks scheduled day by day. Teaching staff will release an overview of learning grids for the week via Google Classroom.

 

Daily online updates, messages, reminders or tasks may be used to supplement and support this.

 

·       Opportunities to ask their teachers questions in relation to their learning

·       To receive effective and timely feedback on their work

·       To receive clear next steps / targets for their learning

– A question stream will be set up for daily tasks via the Google Classroom platform

 

– Through use of the online chat/messaging feature staff (or peers) will be able to respond with help, teacher can target an individual pupil chat forum to message back further instructions, help or support

 

– The online chat/messaging function can also be used as a communication portal for parents (in the event of private communications or further questions related to learning tasks and wellbeing)

Interactions with their teacher / school staff including support for wellbeing video-conferencing can be considered as an option. The school staff will be working together this week to plan for weekly ‘class catch up’ calls – further details to follow via Google Classroom updates and school blog updates.
The opportunity to give meaningful feedback on their remote learning experiences to ensure that provision meets their needs. This will be achieved via both the online messaging/chat feature and the class catch up approach.
This Aberdeenshire approach is in line with advice from Education Scotland. Education Scotland advice can be referenced here.

Further Updates

Children attending the school hub will have daily time set aside to access online learning tasks set out via Google Classroom by their teacher alongside daily hub activities. Supervising staff will be on hand to support children to access and engage with their online tasks. Chromebooks/i-pads will also be available to children throughout the hub day.

 It is recommended that children 6 years and older should have established and consistent limits on the time spent using media, ensuring that digital media doesn’t take the place of sleep, physical activity or real-life personal interactions.

 For this purpose, we will seek to follow the recommendations of no more than 2 hours screen time per day (with breaks between) for those 6 and over and no more than 1 hour daily for those aged 5 and under.

  

Further Useful Resource and Advice Links for Parents

https://www.parentclub.scot/articles/your-guide-childcare – stay at home guidance

Coronavirus | Parent Club – A Parent Club COVID-19 internet microsite, which contains advice on working from home whilst caring for children, advice on helping children with remote and blended learning as well as links to advice and support resources for parents of children with additional support needs.

Parentzone Scotland | Parent Zone (education.gov.scot) – Education Scotland’s Parentzone Scotland website includes advice for parents, families and practitioners on supporting children and young people’s learning during COVID-19.

Blended Learning Nutshell – National Parent Forum of Scotland (npfs.org.uk)

NPFS_learning-at-home_E.pdf

NPFS_online_safety_E.pdf

The National Parent Forum Nutshell guide on blended learning, published in August 2020. This joins further Nutshells on Supporting Learning at Home during “lockdown” and on online safety information for parents and carers.

 

Final Message

We hope that this provides all parents with a clear definition of how learning will be supported at Balmedie School (for Nursery – P7 children) throughout this lockdown period and wish to take the opportunity to thank of parents/carers and children in advance for your overwhelming support in such challenging and anxious moments.

We are advising that everyone takes this week to try out all new things and we can continue to troubleshoot any ‘teething troubles’ as we ‘have a go’ with this alternative learning delivery.

Already, we have had a very busy time in the school starting our Google Classroom delivery up with pupils with issues such as lost passwords/logging on, how to open files, how to download videos and how to record evidence of work/send photos back to the teacher etc – this is a new learning experience for us all and this will take some time to ‘skill up’, resolve all technical issues and take shape.

We also appreciate that for parents supporting learning at home, this will also be the case so please don’t worry as this will all take some practise for all of the children and the adults – we must all ensure that this will be a gradual process to become more comfortable and confident in regards to this way of working.

We will continue to consider further ‘troubleshooting advice’ and review content delivery with staff based on any issues experienced week by week so we would ask all parents to be patient and to share any difficulties so that further advice and support can be provided – please also be aware that some additional time may need to be given for this process.

Many thanks from us all at Balmedie School for your continued support!

Head Teacher Update for All Parents – Return to Online Learning

Dear Parents/Carers,

Given our workload demands at such a critical time, rather than respond individually to a growing number of enquiries, I feel it best to provide all parents with some advanced notice and advice regarding our ‘behind the scenes’ approaches to providing online learning next week.

Although live and face to face learning is the main topic of conversation and widely promoted at media/government level, there is no set agreement or expectation in place with teaching unions for this kind of ‘live’ delivery (in terms of staff workload).  It may also not be relevant to all forms of learning which is commonly planned/delivered across all age groups.

Not all families or pupil learning may now fit suitably within the 9am – 3.15pm day and some families may not yet have the technology compatible/familiarity with some online learning tools (despite perhaps some circulating social expectation that this should now be the case).

Our main aim will be to continue to liaise with local authority advice/our Ellon cluster schools towards using Google Classroom as our main learning platform. There are likely to be some elements of captured learning using media e.g. video, download files, weekly learning grids. This is the best form of media to enable access to educational instruction at your convenience and provides children with some choice, variety and chosen pace in regards to promoting ownership in their learning.

As a staff we are meeting regularly to discuss other ways to enhance interactions with pupils and the subject of live calls have already been discussed – at present, we will work with staff next week to plan out whether some form of weekly class catch up (or weekly learner group catch up) can be trialled using live calls. This will need to be carefully scheduled, planned and introduced. We acknowledge that this may not necessarily be an approach which caters to all learners/family circumstances.

Live and face to face learning must be something agreed and delivered as a whole school staff on the basis this needs to become consistent in terms of further enhancing our online learning offer in the coming weeks (or beyond). There will be existing approaches for teachers to provide online feedback, conduct check-ins/daily register, allow planning time, development of weekly activity grids & daily tasks, provide web links and online downloadable materials to aid learning which we hope will provide a variety of accessibility to all families who will have differing circumstances.

There is also no fixed expectation from school regarding the volume of work children must complete – we just hope this will provide access to suitable learning opportunities so children can engage on a daily basis with their learning and can continue to progress at their own pace.

Attention from staff will be given in our keyworker provision to schedule and support access to online learning. This will also be alongside ensuring the children will have ample opportunity to access daily exercise, outdoor activities, play and social opportunities (with a limit on daily screen/online time). This is to ensure we support all aspects of health and wellbeing.

For some members of staff (both in hub and working remotely), there is consideration for their own personal circumstances (much like many of our school parent cohort). There may be wider challenges such as dependants, shielding/wellbeing and other additional family needs factors which need to be considered in terms of how accessible they can be, to be able to deliver or support daily learning.

A blog post is scheduled to go up on Monday morning to illustrate our local authority and school approach to online learning in the first instance. This will be updated weekly in tandem with our class teacher meetings if/when we introduce any new approaches.

At present our main priority is around finalising the keyworker/vulnerable pupil hub and ensuring all pupils are successfully registered online to the class ‘Google Classroom’ platform. We will monitor the participation level online next week to ensure all children are successfully accessing and engaging with online learning (however they are able). We will also aim to finalise loaning out devices and can build from there on a weekly basis.

Additional supports will also feature on an ongoing basis through our school blog and via Groupcall Xpressions app to continue to support and signpost parents to additional online supports/resources/references throughout this lockdown period.   I hope this fully reassures you to the efforts behind the scenes, in regards to catering for as many families/family circumstances as we possibly can.

Kindest Regards

Dougie Ford
Head Teacher