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How to keep your kids learning in lockdown 

It’s tricky enough for adults to stay motivated right now, but how on earth do you keep your kids positive, bright and ready to learn? Two top local schools offer some great advice.

I feel sorry for kids right now. Lockdown was fun for a nanosecond for them (X-Box for socialising? Result!), and for their parents the Easter Break meant no worries about lengthy lie-ins and PJs at 11am.

Seven weeks into self-isolation and I know that even as an adult, I am horrifically bored of eating every meal looking at the same four faces, am struggling with concentration, and seem to have lost my excitable ‘time to reboot’ vibe that I was so proud of in the first week. How much harder it must be for children to stay motivated, interested in life around them and disciplined enough to keep up with their school work or fitness.

So I’ve been in touch with two schools that I think are particularly innovative and proactive with their approach to education – Moulsford Prep School in Moulsford and d’Overbroeck’s in Oxford – for their advice on how to keep our children engaged and inspired to learn through these crazy times. I hope it helps! Over to you both…

Ben Beardmore Gray, Headmaster, Moulsford Prep School, Moulsford  

Moulsford School

It’s been a steep learning curve for all schools to get to grips with virtual lessons and new technology, let alone then teaching the children in a way that keeps them motivated to learn and engage. Virtual teaching is very much about interaction – the most successful classes in our first week were those where there was two way conversation between teacher and child. It’s also about creating community – we have year group assemblies every morning. If your school is just giving out info sheets for your child to fill in and there’s no discussion, it’s something you might want to suggest.

Prior to lockdown we had just launched a new ‘Super Curriculum’ for our boys which was designed to stretch and challenge them in all sorts of ways in addition to the usual academic lessons. This is one of the ways we’ve kept them engaged. They’re open ended tasks, and can be completed as they want over the year across a whole range of subjects, so it’s been a great thing for them to do during lockdown – anything from creating a poster advertising a place you’ve visited in Geography or creating a History Top Trumps game, to writing a thank you letter to a person who’s inspired you for English or for Art listen to your favourite song and draw what you hear.

Moulsford pupils launching from the school onto the river

Exercise is important for us all, but young boys need to burn off energy to help their learning. They also thrive on competition – but how to do this when you’re isolated? The sports staff have been innovative, creating challenges like  #ibeatmrorgill on twitter where Mr Orgill sets a task – for example, can the kids beat a 4.06m kilometre on foot or bike? He sets a target the kids have to beat before they can go on twitter to boast that, yes, #ibeatmrorgill. It’s really caught the imagination of the boys.

Mr Orgill. Can you beat him?

The same with DT where the boys are now studying ‘reverse engineering’ – check out the book Paper Engineering that our DT teacher Jess Roberts is using to take the boys through how things work and the theory behind them. A lot of the most successful teaching is led by creative thinking and passion.

The last thing to point out is not to ignore wellbeing and mental health in the equation as this has a huge impact on the ability and enthusiasm for learning. At Moulsford we get the kids to fill in weekly wellbeing questionnaires that we then discuss as a teaching team and act on any issues fast. If your school isn’t tracking in this way, you can try gently checking in with your child on how she or he is feeling every few days, while Young Minds is a great starting place for children to find support. 

Ben Beardmore-Gray is currently meeting prospective parents to Moulsford School via video call. Provisional Open Days are scheduled for Fri 25 Sept 10am – 12pm and 1pm – 3pm; Sat 26 Sept, 9am – 12pm. Please check with the Registrar.

Johny Richards, Director of Sport, d’Overbroeck’s School, Oxford 

doverbroek school path leading to white building with cur grass lawn

d’Overbroeck’s is one of the top academic schools in the UK, teaching children from 11 through to 18. As a central Oxford school where space is at a premium our facilities for sports have always been offsite, so we’re used to thinking inventively about getting kids involved and creating team spirit. 

One thing that is coming through strongly from discussions our students’ parents is how hard it is to motivate children to do their exercise. And as the kids get older, they hold stronger views and study for longer, so it takes more perseverance to get those not passionate about fitness to carve out time for exercise.

If your children are struggling to focus or seem to be drifting, my advice is to nudge them towards more exercise. Generally speaking, a sunnier mood, longer concentration and increased engagement in schoolwork will follow, so here are my six simple suggestions to help encourage your children to embrace fresh air and fitness, and release those all-important endorphins.

Fix a routine – Try to encourage a time to exercise at the same time every day/week, so it becomes habitual. Before long they’ll feel out of sorts if they miss their ‘fix’ 

1

Write a plan – Putting things to paper helps commitment. It will also allow your kids to consider how to make the sessions more productive.

2

Parents, be prepared to get involved. Exercising with others promotes healthy competition and motivates, so if they want to run with you – do it! They can also try group work outs via streaming so they can exercise with their friends.

3

Variety. Keep an eye on their fitness routines. If they just run that same everyday circuit their enthusiasm will wane. 

4

Let them do what they love. There are endless exercises, sports and intensities. Let them go online and be inspired by something they enjoy. No-one sticks at sports they don’t like.

5

Progression. Make sure they understand the need to build on their fitness gains, by making each week a little harder than the previous one. It’s the only way to develop fitness, plus it encourages them to keep going! 

6

d’Overbroeck’s is planning two virtual Open Day events in June, one for Years 7-11 (9 – 10 Jun) and another for Sixth Form (2 – 4 Jun). For more details contact 7-11@doverbroecks.com or sixthform@doverbroecks.com.

Find more ideas here

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