Parents say an independent primary school has provided a lifeline as the only one in North Wales to maintain a full day of online classes through lockdown.
Pupils at Myddelton College Preparatory School – just like their senior school counterparts – have logged on to roll call and had a full series of virtual lessons every day since lockdown started and schools closed in March.
The school in Denbigh has been operating remote lessons since lockdown began in March and each morning pupils across North Wales log on to classes through the magic of the worldwide web.
It’s helping them beat the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic which has meant that teachers and pupils have to stay apart to prevent infection but at Myddelton even junior school pupils use the Microsoft Office 365 system so they have been able to adjust.
Ruth Hogan, from Bodorgan, on Anglesey, whose son, Thomas, 11, is going up to senior school at Myddelton College in September, said: “We have three children younger than Thomas and their school have done their best but they haven’t been able to provide the schooling that Myddelton have.
“He hasn’t missed a day and that’s been brilliant and we’ve had peace of mind that Thomas hasn’t missed out on any of his studies so we don’t have the worry of him needing to catch up when starting Senior School and feel he is fully prepared for the transition.
“The teaching has been amazing and very supportive and they have kept the children engaged which I would think must have been very difficult and every day he’s been so keen to get on-line on time.
“It was a big decision as a family to send Thomas to Myddelton College but what we liked was their ethos and their forward-thinking and it was just genius that they were already set up for online lessons – it’s been a real life-saver.”
Helen Roberts, from Lixwm, near Holywell, whose daughter, Jessica, is in Year Five, said: “I’ve been really delighted with the way online schooling has worked out. It’s been seamless between the children working in the classroom and working from home.
“I know of other schools where home schooling hasn’t gone well and that must be so difficult with parents trying to juggle working from home too, but I can’t fault Myddelton College and that applies to the senior school as well where my son, Lewis, is in Year Eight.
“It’s now the summer holidays and Jessica is already saying that she can’t wait to get back into the classroom.”
Matteo Iavazzo, 11, from Gellifor, near Ruthin, has just completed Year Six at the Preparatory School and will be going up to the senior school in September, and his mum, Genevieve Dreiling, said: “I’ve been working full time through lockdown and at least I haven’t had to worry about school for Matteo.
“The support from the school has been amazing and I just don’t know how I would have coped without it and he’s been very lucky from that point of view.
“The staff at Myddelton College have been very understanding and it’s been good for him to have contact with his friends as well and that’s something he has also been able to do online.”
Head of Preparatory School Katie Gresley-Jones, from Rhuallt, said: “There has been very little disruption and it’s been quite extraordinary how smooth the transition has been.
“We’ve been able to continue with the full curriculum and I believe we’re the only prep school in North Wales that have been able to do that and we haven’t had to rely on parents trying to teach.
“Many schools have tried this in lockdown but because our use of online systems was already embedded it was so much easier for the pupils because it was already the norm.
“We appreciate the importance of handwriting. We have adopted a blended approach and our pupils still use pens, pencils and exercise books as well learning how to type.”
Myddelton College Preparatory School pupils are aged from eight to 11 and each morning g they log on at 8.30am to do their morning maths challenge before classes start at 8.55am.
Katie teaches Years Five and Six while her colleague, Annie Williams, takes Years Three and Four with the pupils taught through Microsoft Team and One Note and with additional classes in subjects such as Spanish and Music taught by specialists from the senior school.
The Preparatory School takes a holistic approach to teaching with subjects taught across the age groups by themes and at Myddelton College prep school it also includes Learning Through The Outdoors (LTTO), using the natural world as a classroom.
Katie, a qualified Microsoft Innovation in Education expert, said: “That has been a bit different when taught remotely but again because the children are so familiar with the online systems we use it has gone very well.
“We’ve been able to teach sustainability and to explore the local environment and look at different plants and animals in their gardens.
“Not all children learn in the same way and LTTO is a great way to engage with pupils who find it easier to respond to hands-on learning.
“Spending time outdoors also benefits our pupil’s mental health and physical wellbeing.
“Myddelton Preparatory School were finalists for the Prep School Of the Year Award at the prestigious national Independent School Parent Magazine Award Ceremony.
“We were commended our commitment to not only equip our pupils with the skills needed to work in the 21st century, but also with the skills needed to cope with the demands and pressures of life in the 21st century through initiatives such as LTTO and Mindfulness.”
Myddelton College Headmaster Andrew Allman has seen the benefits of the prep school being integrated with the senior school and he said: “Our blended approach to education means that students from Preparatory School to Sixth Form can access lessons through Microsoft OneNote so the teacher can fully engage with pupils remotely.
“The delivery through Microsoft Teams means that Katie and Annie can see the class and can speak to them and communicate in writing and engage one on one which is so important.
“I believe a number of schools have been struggling to get to grips with the system but all our staff and pupils are familiar with it and it has worked absolutely as it is designed to do.”
Myddelton College, a co-educational day and boarding school, was the UK’s newest independent school when it opened in the autumn of 2016 and is the only school in North Wales with a 5G network.
The Estyn Report issued last year praised the way the school celebrates its diversity, said that pupils’ behaviour was “exemplary” and was also impressed by the high level of support and guidance provided by the “committed staff”.