The trials and tribulations of home schooling through lockdown in Blackpool

Home schooling has been a real learning curve, not just for pupils but their parents and carers as well.

By Sonja Astbury
Friday, 15th May 2020, 1:47 pm
Updated Friday, 15th May 2020, 2:29 pm
Faye Morton and son Jack Morton-Calvert
Faye Morton and son Jack Morton-Calvert

Putting the obvious struggles aside, most agree that while it is not a challenge anyone is in a hurry to repeat, it has had some real advantages, especially strengthening the bond between school and families.

Like most schools, Gateway Academy has been working to support home learning and provide support for key worker children.

Sue Robinson headteacher at the Blackpool school gives top marks to her supportive parents.

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Kian Wardle with his home- school project

She says: “Our parents at Gateway have been so supportive and they really have been amazing.”

Sue adds: “We have listened to parents at every stage since the school closure in March and looked for solutions to the barriers we felt families were experiencing based on telephone calls home.

“Our amazing, caring staff team have gone the extra mile to ensure the help and support has been there every day of every week and the positive comments have been reassuring that we are helping wherever we can.”

Full of praise for families, she adds: “Our parents have really risen to the challenges of home schooling and have made great teachers.

Layton hard at work... at home

"We are really lucky to have such a supportive community who are prepared to help one another and ensure everyone is safe and supported .

It has been wonderful to receive pictures and videos of the children at home enjoying their learning and helped the teachers stay in touch as we all miss our pupils very much.”

A number of initiatives have been implemented to help parents choose the method of learning for their youngsters that suits there needs, This ranges from Facebook to email activities, resource packs with equipment and other much needed emotional support.

And, so far it has paid off.

Little Phoebe is learning through play

One mum Kamela Tomlinson has been home-schooling her children Layton and Darla White.

She says: “At first I worried about how we could home school our children.

“I became anxious and worried knowing that we needed to ensure that our children could do their daily work as much as possible.

“Having a child that was more than willing and one that wasn’t so willing was a tough job at first but with the help and support of our amazing school and the whole Blackpool Gateway Academy team, we as a whole family have been able to find our feet and adapt to the new daily routines of home schooling our children.”

Cole Morton-Calvert is enjoying home schooling

Kamela adds: “This wouldn’t have been possible without our school being on hand to help and support us whenever we have needed them; they have always been there and assisted us with everything we have needed and continue to do so .

"Our school has been doing so much to help and support us making sure we have everything we need should it be work packs paper for our printers,food parcels, stationary resources and more.

But most of all, they are always there to make sure us and our children are OK, always phoning us to check in with us as a family. not just the children and to find out how we are doing and do we need anything. I’m super proud of the Gateway team.”

Mum Faye Morton agrees and adds: “ It’s a big change being home all the time looking after two young children and trying to juggle school work with daily life.

“I try to get my two boys active and have as much fun as possible. We have even enjoyed live stories from Blackpool Libraries online which the children have loved. I’ve even started making tutorials for other families to try with the children.”

But, says Faye, mental health has been a struggle for her, from going from being an active volunteer with Community Voice and BetterStart to a mum with dyslexia trying to teach two children.

She adds: “ We do the Joe Wicks exercise daily to set us up for the day and then the assigned school work such as maths and phonics and making lots of mess with art and crafts.

“The teachers are always there to help us, whether its supplies, support or advice. I’m so proud of Jack and Cole, this has all been a big change for them and they have adapted amazingly.”

Jack, six, says: “It’s nice doing school work at home as I have my family near me, my mummy and daddy help me with my school work each day. I even help my little brother with his work and like teaching him.

I miss my school friends and teachers. I’ve been doing exercise with my mummy and little brother Cole, mummy says we need to keep healthy.”

Four years old Cole adds: “I do art with mummy. We also do lots of fun games and be good.

“I like being home because of the coronavirus, I don’t like the coronavirus. We made Hungry Caterpillar art for the nursery and stuck it all up on the wall.”

Sharon Wardle has been juggling life with teaching a three and seven year old.

She says: “ I found teaching them at home hard to begin with but then as time went on it became easier.

“The children have off days so we don’t push for school work to be done. We try to do something else that will help them learn.

“It’s a hard, challenging time for us all. We do a lot of learning through play so the children don’t realise they are learning.

“School has been amazing with regular phone calls making sure we’re OK and managing. The children love seeing the videos from school - it keeps them connected with each other.”

Kian, seven, says: “I have been doing lots of work from school doing lots of writing, doing work on the computer making songs up. We have been playing lots of games.”

His three year old sister Phoebe adds: “I have done school work and watched miss millet on the computer. Learning my numbers and letters. Doing experiments with mummy.”

Over at Blackpool and Fylde College the initial move from the traditional classroom was a shock but after team work by both staff and students (and their families) The Seasiders Learning Centre now has 80

per cent of students actively learning online.

ICT student Ann Mitchell said: “I was worried I wouldn’t have the technology to get online but college gave me an Office 365 account for free which meant I had access to all of the Microsoft software.”

Shelley Browne added: “It was easier to get online than I thought it would be. I can use my smartphone or tablet.

“I prefer to use my smartphone for the online lessons as the Teams app is really easy to use. I then do my homework on my tablet."

Students have weekly live lessons on Microsoft Teams and send their work back to tutors for individual feedback.

Other students have been sent work packs and textbooks with weekly phone calls to check their progress.

These calls have provided a lifeline for those who are isolated.

Shelley, who is studying English, maths and ICT added: “I was worried about not seeing my college friends but I can see them in our online lessons whilst still staying safe,”

Monika Pieuch, who is studying ESOL, said: “It’s great that we’re still working towards our certificates even though we can’t go to class, and it’s keeping me busy.”

Seasiders is continuing to enrol new students who need their English, ESOL, ICT and maths to progress in work and education.