Saturdays at ArtsEd – Keep Covid Compliant and Carry On!

15.12.2020

ArtsEd is renowned for it’s performing arts professional training and award-winning independent Day School and Sixth Form, however we also provide a whole host of evening, weekend and holiday courses run by full-time, expert staff.

Covid-19 had a huge impact on how all education providers deliver their curriculum, and it was no different for the ArtsEd EXTRA team who run these popular weekend and part-time courses.

Jessie Hills (EXTRA & Outreach Manager) and James Wilson (Administrator and Teacher) discuss the challenges they faced in 2020 and how they adapted to keep their courses open and available to pupils.

First lockdown – March – what is ‘Zoom’?!

Jessie: “When we went into the first lockdown and were told we could not continue face-to-face teaching, I immediately contacted all of our parents and students and assured them that classes would continue online. If you remember, nobody had really heard of Zoom and performing arts teachers were suddenly faced with adapting their lessons so they could teach from their kitchen or bedroom! Fortunately, ArtsEd was already set-up with Google Classrooms and so we quickly started working out how to adapt to an online platform without compromising the quality of our teaching and the experience of the students.”

James: “We set the students our ‘8-week Online Challenge’, to give them something to focus on and work towards, but honestly it was a challenge for us as well! At that point, we were delivering pre-recorded material only, something we learned a huge amount from.”

Summer School – engaging new students!

Jessie: “We took what we learned from our Saturday sessions into our Summer courses, where we introduced live elements as well as pre-recorded material. This was so important. We always have new students on our summer courses, and we didn’t want their first experience of ArtsEd to be all video recordings – we wanted that interaction. We wanted to (as much as possible) recreate the atmosphere of our Chiswick home and our studios.”

James: “Summer was incredible! Our teaching staff adapted to online class delivery and worked their socks off to ensure our students not only developed their skills but also had a great time. We were so proud of everyone, and the feedback from parents and students reassured us that it was the right decision to go ahead with the school and not cancel. It was worth all the effort to see our students flourish and bring so much energy to their computer screens!”

September – back to school!

James: “When the government guidelines allowed us to return to face-to-face teaching in September we were thrilled at the prospect of seeing everyone in-person again. However, we also knew that there would be anxiety among parents regarding safety, and we knew we had to put in lots of measures to become Covid-compliant.”

Jessie: “ArtsEd is a fully-functioning Day School, Sixth Form and Higher Education institution, so lots of safety measure were put into place over the summer ready for the return to classes in September. For our Saturday classes, this meant we were able to offer Covid-compliant procedures right from the first session back.”

ArtsEd EXTRA safety measures include:

  • Temperature checks on arrival – we have an airport style camera system as well as a hand held scanner
  • Hands sanitised on arrival and stations throughout the building
  • Parents are not allowed in the building – drop off outside
  • Start-times are staggered for all classes – avoids mixing of groups
  • On arrival, students wait in the foyer and then taken to class by an assistant
  • Classes do not move – students remain in one studio and staff rotate
  • Class sizes reduced and social distancing measures in place
  • Curriculum adapted to promote activities with less physical contact
  • Masks are worn in all common areas
  • One way system in place

Jessie: “The school building is also ‘fogged’ on a Friday evening when all the full-time teachers and students have left for the weekend. This is a deep cleaning process, which is very effective. Cleaning staff clean and sanitise our studios on a Saturday morning just before we start teaching, as well. The school really has been great in supporting us to ensure we can continue to hold our EXTRA courses.”

The need to provide online, blended learning means that no matter how the guidelines change, Saturday classes will always be able to continue in one format or another.

James: “We can adapt now with very short notice! It seems that every other week there is a new guideline or a fear that we will be in a tier that doesn’t allow face-to-face teaching. We are now really confident in our ability to deliver classes online – we can just swing into action, email all our parents and students and switch to virtual learning with very little fuss.”

January – what’s the plan?!

Jessie: “We are currently in tier 3, however our Saturday classes have finished for the term, so we don’t need to worry about that now until after Christmas. We won’t know until January what tier we’ll be in and how it will affect Saturdays at ArtsEd, but no matter what – we will be back on Saturday 9 January, ready and raring to go!

James: “We’ve made an additional change to our teaching for January. Whereas our singing lessons have all been done remotely since September, we have invested in visors for all our students, which means we can deliver them safely, in-person. Of course, if we are still in tier 3 in January then we’ll start the term with online learning, but the moment we are allowed back into the building, we’ll be there.”

Jessie: “James and I are so proud of all our students and staff for the achievements in 2020 – what a year it’s been – but we’ve soldiered on, and I know we will continue with this enthusiasm in the new year. Whatever the challenges are – bring it on!”

Parent & Student Feedback: 2020

“Just wanted to say a final thank you for the term’s work at ArtsEd. I think what you have achieved via remote learning is really excellent and you set the bar quite high for the children, which is a really good thing.”

“I just wanted to say a huge thank you for the ArtsEd EXTRA online course. My daughter enjoyed it so much – she really  looked forward to it every week. The course content and teaching was great and really made her think about how to create a character for performing and the google classrooms platform worked well. It was also good for her to get feedback with next steps for improving too. We live in a rural area and we are not usually able to access these kind of courses in person so the online version was a bonus for us.”

“I just wanted to say we really appreciate all that you are doing to make sure the online courses and lessons go ahead.  It must be a nightmare planning it all.  Lottie would be lost without it and it really keeps her motivated and challenged.”

“Annabel’s really excited about getting going with the online classes. Set up was very easy – and it’s the first time I’ve accessed google classroom. The instructions you sent were really clear.”

“Thank you so much for providing an online course this term. It is so frustrating for everyone in the performing arts and you’ve done a fantastic job of keeping the ArtsEd service going.”

“Thank you so much for providing the children with such wonderful content while they haven’t been able to come to their usual classes. It has been so fun for Lauren to be able to watch and follow all the tutorials and go back to them whenever she wants. She has absolutely loved the project and making the tapes was a great way to round it all off.  Thank you so much to you and your colleagues – I think the children must all have learnt so much!”

“Thanks for everything at ArtsEd this term. Lauren has loved every second and I think the blended learning approach you took was amazing in the circumstances.”

Just want to give you some very positive feedback on the Zoom Drama classes! I am extremely impressed with how engaging and entertaining the teacher is, with all the brilliant games and activities he organises for the children! They appeared to be having so much fun – Ellie certainly was! I’d pop my head into her bedroom now and again and see the massive smiles on all their faces. This is really important considering they aren’t able to physically be together, so I want to thank you and all at ArtsEd for your tremendous hard work; I know you all go above and beyond to ensure that the children have the best possible experience, and that’s why ArtsEd is such a prestigious school!

For more information about ArtsEd EXTRA, click here

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