The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, joined a virtual Year 6 maths lesson and was then interviewed by Year 5 children in the TV studio at Broadclyst Community Primary School (BCPS) on Wednesday morning (24 February).
Following the good news that schools will be reopening on 8 March, the Secretary of State talked to the children about how they’ve been learning during lockdown and how much they are looking forward to being back in their classrooms. During Mr Beevor’s maths lesson, Mr Williamson spoke to children of keyworkers in the classroom and also pupils joining the class via Teams from home. They asked him questions about his own education, and he explained how his love of history led to his interest in politics, which he discussed with his family at home as he was growing up. He encouraged the children to think about a political career.
Teacher Bronnie Williams told Mr Williamson that the Year 6 children would normally take part in a school visit to the Houses of Parliament, but, given that they probably won’t be able to this year, talking to him in class was “a very close second”.
BTV, the state-of-the-art TV studio at BCPS, has been pivotal in the delivery of lessons during the past year, allowing specialist teachers to stream engaging lessons, expert lectures and assemblies. As part of the weekly news bulletin that children make from the BTV for broadcast across all the schools in the Cornerstone Academy Trust, two Year 5 pupils interviewed the Secretary of State. He told them that what he enjoys most about his role is to be able to visit schools and speak to pupils, and he’s been sad not to be able to do that during the pandemic. In answer to a question about the challenge schools will face in the next year, he said: “The priority is welcoming all children back on 8 March and supporting schools to allow this. Also, children will have missed out on a lot, with their friends and teachers, so helping and supporting them will be the challenge.”
Headteacher Jonathan Bishop expressed his excitement about the children returning to school and being able to participate in a wide range of activities including musical theatre, art and football matches: “We’ve all learned lots about the power of technology to support children in their learning, not just from home, but for bringing schools together, inviting special guests like the Secretary of State, and taking children around the world virtually.” He asked Mr Williamson what he sees as the lessons learned for the future from government investment in technology.
“We’ve spent a lot on laptops and tablets and don’t want it wasted,” responded the Secretary of State. “We want to support children if they can’t come into school, but also help the tutoring of small groups and we need to look at other ways we can tap into the technology to bring children together virtually and allow specialist teachers to share knowledge by delivering lessons virtually.”
Mr Williamson was impressed with his visit: “It’s been so fantastic. They were brilliant interviewers - thank you for making me feel so welcome. I hope I can visit you in reality at some point in the future.”
During the lockdowns, the Cornerstone Academy Trust has been offering a full virtual education programme, from 9am to 3.30pm daily, streaming classes and activities that range from full assemblies to class lessons and group work to one-to-one mentoring sessions to individual pupils. The whole education programme has been recorded, so that parents and children can catch up on anything they need to. Lessons and activities have included art, music and even cookery classes that involve the whole family in order to boost well-being at home. The Trust has loaned all the devices usually used in school to parents at home, so that its broad and balanced curriculum can be offered across the whole school community.