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Learning in an Online Environment

The Summer term has certainly been an unusual one, but we have been delighted with the progress that our boys are making, their enthusiasm and engagement with all aspects of our curricular and super-curricular provision, and the innovative and dynamic teaching that our beaks have delivered.

Within 72 hours of on-the-ground education ceasing, we had successfully transitioned the key components of our educational provisional into an online format and on Monday 23 March, the day that the Prime Minister announced lockdown, we began our online teaching and learning programme. In the preceding weeks, we had run training for all our teaching staff on the logistics of using Microsoft Teams and engaged in the sharing of good practice. For several years now, we have had a strong digital infrastructure with every boy using a Microsoft Surface Book in all their lessons, and so the adaptation was a smooth one.

For all five year groups, our online teaching programme has been fully synchronous with our lessons being live and interactive through Teams. This is supported by our use of OneNote which enables further digital collaboration. The shape of the day was amended to bring about an earlier start, shorter lunchtimes and an earlier end to the day with the view of maximising access to the live lessons for boys on different time zones. Lessons were also recorded for boys who were unable to attend every lesson in real time.

At the start of the Easter holidays, the government announced the cancelling of public examinations and so we set about designing and developing new and exciting programmes for both the Fifth Form and the Upper Sixth. The Fifth Form commenced their A-level studies and Sixth Form Electives programme, as well as accessing the Life Beyond the Hill and Cross-Curricular lecture Series. Fifth Formers were also required to study a MOOC, and to submit two prize essays, with each department running a prize essay competition. Additionally, they have one taught period per week of A-level Study Skills, helping them to hone their note-taking skills, organise themselves more effectively, and to develop good working patterns.

The Upper Sixth began university seminar styled courses in the two A-level subjects which most closely aligned to their degree programme, laying a strong foundation for their first year at university. We are confident that our leavers will be the best prepared cohort for university. Each subject runs six 40-minute live lessons each week. Supporting this is the careers programme whereby boys have four live lessons each week on the key skills that they will need to succeed in the workplace, on subjects such as leadership, assessment days, and the graduate job market. Additionally, the Upper Sixth Elective runs for three 40-minute live lessons per week where boys can choose from one of seventeen off-piste courses which include subjects such as Introduction to Cooking and Exploring Psychology.

A great deal of academic life occurs through the super-curriculum, through the lectures and society events which happen each day on the Hill. These have very successfully migrated to an online context, using Microsoft Teams Live Events where talks can be delivered by boys, beaks or external guests. Talks and presentations can also be pre-recorded and uploaded onto Microsoft Stream. There have been over 40,000 internal hits on our super-curricular provision which shows the extent to which the boys are continuing to engage with it. We have also enabled both Harrow parents and partner schools to access several of our talks.

We are looking forward to the boys returning to the Hill and continuing their studies in person, but we are grateful to all the boys, their families and to the whole School community for ensuring that teaching and learning has progressed so effectively during this summer term.

Dr Michael Gray

Director of Studies