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Our Virtual School

Adapting to life as a ‘virtual’ school has been an interesting challenge for St John’s pupils and staff, but the last few weeks have seen us settle into a new way of working, learning and communicating that has sparked impressive displays of creativity, resilience and good-humour.

At St John’s, our interest in the opportunities that technology offers to education means that we went into this process from a strong starting position. We introduced ‘Bring Your Own Device’ in 2018 and,   with a programme of innovation and training spearheaded by our Assistant Head (Digital Strategy), our pupils and staff were already familiar with using technology creatively to enhance learning. Throughout the Easter holidays our staff worked hard to take this several steps further and allowing us to deliver a full ‘virtual’ timetable, with the classroom experience replicated in as meaningful a way as possible. 

With lessons up and running, many other aspects of school life have also moved into the virtual world to ensure that our staff and pupils have as rich a ‘school day’ as possible from their own homes. The Head of St John’s, Rowena Cole, has been delivering a weekly assembly via video – from a different location in school each week - and Housemasters and Housemistresses have been sending video assemblies to stay in touch. To maintain the level of pastoral care that is at the heart of St John’s life, tutor time is taking place virtually and the Chaplain shares his weekly Chapel Talk. 

Pupils, parents and staff have been provided with resources offering advice and guidance to help with many aspects of the current circumstances. From the importance of sleep for wellbeing and suggestions on how to stay active, to practical tips for reducing screen time in an increasingly screen-centric day and the value of reading material not connected to schoolwork, the aim has been to equip our community with strategies that help them adapt well to this strange new way of life. 

A huge part of St John’s School life is the fun of spending time together doing co-curricular activities, and staff and pupils have quickly found inventive ways of reintroducing the things they were missing.  Rowena Cole, The Head, explains:

“One of the most notable aspects of the last few weeks is that, as strange as the empty school buildings feel, we are doing almost everything we would normally do as a school – we are simply finding new ways to do it. Beyond the impressively mature way that pupils have responded to learning remotely, we’ve enjoyed lunchtime virtual recitals, House Athletics is underway in an imaginatively ‘locked-down’ format, and the PTA organised a fun Virtual Quiz Night. Every Monday morning, our whole-staff briefing takes place, but now we do it via Microsoft Teams rather than in the Common Room, and later this month we will run our staff INSET in a virtual world. There is no denying there are challenges, and I cannot wait for the day that I look out of my study window and see pupils hurrying across the Quad again, but I am so proud of how the whole St John’s community has adapted to ensure we protect both the education and wellbeing of our pupils.”