“The nearest thing to Swallows and Amazons within throwing distance of the M25, Parkside has a generosity of spirit and an enjoyment of all that can be done which is uplifting.” – Good Schools Guide Review 2021

Parkside School in Surrey already prides itself on its exemplary ethos, outstanding quality of teaching, state of the art facilities and all-encompassing commitment to academic rigour and pastoral support for its pupils. However, now more than ever, this private school in Surrey has gained yet another achievement to celebrate: ‘learning at home’. This is the preferred name for their method of education delivered during Covid-19 and is used rather than ‘home schooling’. 

Parkside’s ‘learning at home’ provision was first developed last year, during the first lockdown, and has earned them praise from pupils, parents, and education professionals. It was the criteria that resulted in being shortlisted as the UK’s Best Independent Boys’ School 2020 and one of the best schools in Surrey. Their mantra of ‘make it happen’ was, and still is, demonstrated clearly for all to see and is getting some fantastic results. 

Learning at home
Josh from Year 2 learning at home

Great results from a parent survey

An ISC (Independent Schools Council) parent survey about education in the time of the pandemic, found that almost 93% of Parkside parents felt satisfied with the quality of education received by their child during the first lockdown and that this justified the fees charged during the pandemic, compared to 71% of parents participating from other independent schools.

The majority of Parkside parents felt that overall, the School has handled the crisis exceptionally well and awarded an average score of 9.48 on a scale of 1-10 (1=extremely bad, 10= exceptionally well). This is compared to an average score of 8.5% granted by parents from other schools who participated. With this, Parkside parent comments were 89% positive, compared to 66% from parents from other participating independent schools.

Fast forward 9 months and the UK is back in lockdown: but the only way for this Surrey independent school was onwards and upwards!

From the moment the Government announced the new restrictions on the evening before spring term was due to start, it has been all hands-on-deck to manage the education process during the pandemic and to deliver an improved version of ‘learning at home’ from the first lockdown. Having called an extra inset day to look at ways to improve on their previous successes, the senior leadership and whole staff teams changed their planned lessons, organised resource packs for collection (from the various Covid safe ‘drive thru’ points) and tested their technology whilst communicating consistently with families and keeping them updated with the changes. 

“The way that Parkside has managed remote learning during CV-19 should be commended, the boys have been incredibly supported, as well as parents who were also working. As one of them, I had full confidence that my boys were stimulated and guided through their day, confirmed by their responses of ‘great’ when asked about their days.” – Mrs D, Parkside Parent January 2021

For Parkside boys, the 2021 lockdown again consists of a full day of lessons – reflecting the normal school day, including forest school, food tech, drama and art (which are delivered ‘live’ now). This time round, a more developed and sleek system is in place. 

 “I have no words. I’m blown away and, to be honest, a little emotional. Just wanted to thank you and your excellent team for the seamless transition to remote learning.

You have all, once again, gone above and beyond for both boys and parents. I can’t imagine what you have all been through in the last week with so many last minute government announcements. Then to greet us all yesterday with smiles, excitement and the incredible organisation was quite extraordinary! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” – Mrs M, Parkside parent January 2021

Resource packs are provided for the boys each week and are distributed at the above-mentioned ‘Friday drive thru’. Parents collect packs for the following week, which allows them to plan for the week ahead. They also drop off any work to be marked from the week just gone.

The boys have been using a Facebook style platform called Edmodo, where they can also interact with their teachers and friends. This platform is used by teachers as a way to set work tasks, share links and for the boys to submit their work, post photos etc (a bit like a lockdown forum). The younger Pre Prep boys submit their work via their Independent Learning Diaries (ILD). 

Parkside’s co-educational nursery is very much open for business and Covid secure. Staff are tested weekly and the normality and fun continues in this beautiful, self-contained building known as ‘the Barn’.

This private school in Surrey has also organised their already small class sizes into even smaller working group sessions (using breakout rooms on Zoom) which reform for discussion throughout lessons. Extra booster and scholarship groups are also available where appropriate.

“BOASTY BITS – For a school of this size, it punches well above its weight on both the sporting pitch and academically. (Parents) also love that the school achieves excellent academic results, without being a hothouseMuddy Stilettos Surrey School Review January 2021

Pastoral care is delivered with extended tutorials where any concerns can be discussed whether it’s organisation, or just catch ups, and generally just having a relaxing chat with your form teacher! Ms Janssen (Head) and Mrs McMurdo (Deputy Head) proactively contact parents to check on the boys’ academic progress and wellbeing. Ms Janssen makes surprise Zoom calls during the week to have that personal contact; knowing the whole staff team care. Weekly virtual coffee mornings and afternoon teas (for different year groups) are also used to keep communication flowing within the Parkside community.

A little extra for the parents

As well as the virtual coffee mornings, families of this school in Surrey can enjoy regular virtual parents’ evenings and pre-test advice sessions as well as maths workshops for parents.

Extracurricular clubs have proved exceptionally popular for lunchtime and afterschool activities and include street dance, Lego, puppet club, battleships, crazy composers and much more. These are delivered by the teaching staff – who are all on site and ‘Zooming’ from separate classrooms. These clubs enrich the academic curriculum and reduce screen time after a full day online.

“D has really come out of his shell since joining Parkside and even now with remote learning he continues to enjoy it which says a whole lot about the amount of thought and work put into these online sessions. 

To be really honest, we are absolutely shocked to see how much difference there is in the way the remote learning is being done across several schools. The Parkside’s system is in our view the most streamlined for both parents and children.” Mr & Mrs R January 2021

Fun sessions such as ‘Zoom Zoo’ club (where the boys showcase their various pets), and ‘make breakfast for your parents morning’ have been received extremely well. A virtual movie night is being organised in partnership with the Parents of Parkside (POP, our PTA), complete with popcorn to be included in the boys’ resource packs. 

Humour has been key and is delivered via their own channel on YouTube, Parkside TV, which consists of Sports Teachers dressing up for HiiT sessions and outtakes from the array of videos.

Parkside is without a doubt one to watch and we can expect more exciting things to come because that is just how they roll. Positive, fast paced and ready for any eventuality!

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