This is a guest post from the Headteacher of Greystoke Primary School in Leicestershire on their journey to using Teams for Remote Assemblies.
When the lockdown began in March 2020, we did an incredible job in a very short space of time to train our staff and children in the regular use and interaction with Microsoft Teams as an online learning platform. We established a ‘Team’ for every class in school and then issued daily work which was then responded to and monitored by all teachers. We then learnt how to issue assignments, which enabled us to fine tune the work and meet the needs of different children and respond according to their needs – including our SEN children. In addition, teachers began to upload short instructional videos that provided feedback and explanation to tasks in response to misconceptions; during this time our skills and knowledge increased exponentially. Whilst we acknowledge that we are at the very tip of the iceberg, in terms of online/ remote learning, I am proud of how far we have come so far.
As a head, my main monitoring of this is from a safeguarding perspective; weekly reporting of who is visible online allows myself, my SLT and pastoral team to call families on a weekly basis who have not been visible and to follow up on any concerns at this unprecedented and vulnerable time. This gives us the opportunity to engage directly with children and families, however, my nagging concern throughout this time is that although many of our children are engaging in learning, they are missing the sense of community and belonging that comes from us all being together in school and in my mind, never is this more precious or joyous in primary school than in a daily assembly.
When considering how to undertake an assembly, I looked into other platforms initially as some very proactive parents were already carrying out smaller class assemblies but unfortunately, safety and security prevented this route for us. As Teams updates began to filter through, including more opportunities for us to be in control to play music through the system and to see more ‘faces’ on the tiles at any one time, it became apparent that this was a viable option and our daily assembly was born.
Paul Stone (our CEO) provided an online instructional coaching video at just the right time which provided the technical know-how in terms of set-up, recording and sharing and following this we began the groundwork of obtaining permission and issuing guidance with parents (I am happy to share our parent letter if requested). At this stage, there were a myriad of potential hurdles that all had to be worked through specific to the safeguarding needs of our school community and this phase needs careful planning and time given over to it which I hadn’t anticipated. For the last 2 weeks we have been providing a daily assembly just to the bubbles in school and it has been a steep learning curve. We have wrestled with how much two-way interaction works best, how we all join in with our daily song and how our daily story is shared and discussed and will continue to make tweaks as we learn more and become more comfortable with this format. In the meantime, careful conversations and reassurance has been offered behind the scenes with parents in order for us to get to a place on Friday where we could go ‘live’ to every child at home or school who had consented! It was far from perfect, but it was good enough and I cannot wait for Monday to do it all again! The feedback from families was so positive and the number of comments about how it has given their children the boost they needed is so welcome in these times where the mental well-being of our children is an absolute priority.
If you would like to undertake daily assemblies, my advice is:
- Send out permission slips and clear guidelines way in advance of your launch date in order to make necessary adjustments and chase families.
- Practise ‘in house’ before going live to children at home – we learnt so much in the first week and the children in school are so forgiving to my many mistakes – they are part of the fun and enjoyment.
- When sharing your screen, remember to tick the box instructing to share system audio before playing a song!
- Accept there will be an element of online blindness in terms of responses from children – this is the biggest adjustment from face to face assemblies
- Go for it!