St George's Grammar School discovered that with flexibility and trying out different systems, the best results were achieved and the most learners accommodated.
St George's Grammar School discovered that with flexibility and trying out different systems, the best results were achieved and the most learners accommodated.

Helping matrics: How a private school adapted to 2020

By Michelle Lorber Time of article published Feb 22, 2021

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With 2020 being an extremely difficult year for academics, a private school in Cape Town managed to design itself an effective strategy that would be beneficial for their grade 12s.

St George's Grammar School discovered that with flexibility and trying out different systems and not prescribing only one way of doing things, the best results were achieved and the most learners accommodated.

Some of the methods they adapted ranged from email, WhatsApp, Google Classroom, phone calls when required, video slides, voice notes and photos which were distributed among the class as forms of communication.

Using Google hangouts teachers were able to present their classes and pupils would put up their hands to ask questions.

When the pupils returned to the school building classroom sizes were redesigned in terms of the social distancing protocol. Luckily, for matrics at the school, their classes were smaller as those who wanted to return could be accommodated.

School return was elective, some pupils and parents felt it was safer at home and some decisions were taken because of comorbidities (for example diabetes and cancer treatments). Those who returned to school could be accommodated because the physical size of the classrooms was viable and the number of learners returning were reduced enough for social distancing.

For safety, grades were staggered and the matric return was prioritised first. Matric attendance was paired with grades 10 or nine, so not all grades were back at the same time. Alternating days with other grades was done to limit exposure.

On Fridays, the school had a dedicated consolidation day. Teachers would be available to pupils struggling with particular areas within the subject. During the week they had been given enough work to carry on with which was to be completed by Friday.

Pupils would send in a rough draft for the teacher to look at and suggest improvements. This was found to be particularly helpful, especially when it comes to maths. Teachers would also be contacted for extra help.

As the year drew towards the third term, matrics were back every day and prioritised again in order for them to be able to complete the syllabus.

When face-to-face learning initially started, school days were shorter ending at 1pm and were then extended to end at 3pm.

As the year progressed, the school built an afternoon slot where matrics would go in to make contacts with their teachers. This was allocated to the timetable from 3pm to 5pm. This was felt to be particularly important for those taking maths and engineering graphics and design where assessment of work needs to be done on a continuous basis.

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