Dear Children and Parents,

I hope you all are keeping well despite the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in. For all of us, this new reality is very uncertain and we all will find it challenging to make sense of things and to establish meaningful routines and patterns.

Many thanks to everyone who responded to our survey regarding distance learning. It has been very helpful to our staff to get your feedback. There are several key messages that came forward.

Firstly, many parents expressed an interest in collecting their children’s books and worksheets. The staff began to prepare for this yesterday, and with the support of the Board of Management, we were planning on opening the school on Monday for this purpose. In light of the Taoiseach’s statement last night, we have decided this will not be possible at present.

Secondly, there were different opinions regarding how structured the learning plans should be that teachers provide. While the majority of respondents liked the current approach, there is a significant number of parents who would like more structure. After much discussion, the staff has decided to issue slightly more structured learning plans with specific tasks, but it will still be a menu of suggested activities as we don’t want parents to be under any pressure to complete tasks in a particularly time frame. If parents would like to have a more structured, day-by-day approach, please email your child’s class teacher, who will do his or her best to provide this.

Thirdly, there was a desire for greater personal connection between families and the school. Many suggestions were offered. We’re going to trial and pilot a few of these. I have recorded a video message that you can play to your child, and we will try doing this on an occasional basis.

The learning plans for the coming week will be sent on Monday morning from your child’s teacher’s email account along with a message from your child’s teacher which you can read to them. We would encourage you to correspond with your child’s teacher as necessary.
Feel free to send back any tasks that were completed via email, which we will acknowledge. Regarding the use of online platforms for video conferencing and messaging, we will look at piloting them. We have questions around data protection and how to align their use with our Internet Acceptable Usage Policy that we need to address. Staff are not familiar with such approaches, and we will need to gradually take a look at how to implement these.

Most importantly at this stage, we know that whatever approach we take it won’t possibly match the learning experience children might have at school. While it is absolutely commendable to strive for continued academic progression, the reality for many families will be more complex. There is no doubt we will remember this time in our lives always. Many years from now children will not remember the worksheets or learning tasks or other activities they completed. Instead, they will recall the emotions and feelings they experienced when spending time with the adults in their lives. Therefore, please don’t stress about trying to recreate structured learning at home. If it works for you and your family, that’s great. If it doesn’t, take this time to do enjoyable activities together as a family. During a normal school day there are lots of activities that children engage in that involve play, fun and creativity, and this time together at home could be an opportunity to explore learning activities that couldn’t be done in school. So, embrace those activities that give your family a sense of joy and togetherness during this challenging time.

Be safe, be well, Matt and the Staff at Knocknacarra ETNS

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