The global pandemic has forced schools to completely rethink teaching and learning. Traditional in-class lessons have all but disappeared across the world, as teachers are forced to switch to online remote learning.
No group has found this easy, but the challenges are particularly acute in primary schools for a number of reasons: Younger children lack the skills and dexterity to engage remotely, homes aren’t necessarily set up for optimal comfort at a screen, and schools are accommodating key-worker children in class at the same time as teaching remotely. When a teacher teaches in class, they can see what’s happening and they can adjust their approach accordingly. But without direct feedback, how can schools ensure they are always delivering the best experience they can for all remote learners?
It’s a juggling act, to say the least.
Now, four schools in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom are using Ombea to solve this problem. Those four schools are Cholsey Primary School, Ladygrove Park Primary School, St John’s School, and Willowcroft Community School. Together they comprise the OPEN Academy Trust.
Their senior leadership teams gather monthly to pool expertise, share best practice and act as independent advisors to each other, all with the aim of improving outcomes for children. They recently came across Ombea while discussing the challenges of online teaching. They already knew it was hard but they lacked detailed insight into the specific problems for each child on any given day. They considered running a traditional survey but realised it wouldn’t give them what they want. At best, they would see a snapshot of the issues at a single point in time. When the situation changes, as it always does with COVID, the results become redundant. On top of that, past experience told them they could expect low engagement rates.
All four schools are now using the Ombea Anywhere module to run a weekly ‘5-second check-in’.
The Anywhere module is deceptively simple. You write your questions and Ombea wraps them up in a special link. You can then share this link anywhere you like, in your emails, in your paperwork, on your packaging, even on the side of your building as a QR code! The questions cover all sorts of modes, from satisfaction smileys to free-text. You can even branch in different directions. For example, if somebody is dissatisfied, you can take them down a path to ask why. In contrast, if they are delighted, you can route them to an online review or to share their thoughts so you can reinforce good practice.
Each of the four schools uses a different platform to communicate with parents, but they all work perfectly with Ombea. For example, at Willowcroft they use a tool called Class Dojo to share work, send letters to parents, and so on. Now, at the end of each week, they share their 5-second check-in link (named for its short and snappy design which should take no longer than 5 seconds to complete)
Jane Hemery is the Headteacher at Willowcroft. We asked for her thoughts. Here’s what she had to say: “The Ombea smileys are a light-touch way of getting chatty, honest feedback. They’re really friendly and our parents are liking that. They like that we’re listening to what they have to say.”
But how useful has the feedback been? Jane followed up by telling us: “The feedback has been great! Even the negative comments aren’t really negative, but insightful. We’ve also had far more feedback every week than I thought we would get.”
We also spoke with Andrew Markham, the Headteacher at Ladygrove Park. We asked him about the usefulness of the feedback and he explained how it helped with consistency. “We've been able to verify that most of our approaches are received well but one trend in replies showed parents were mindful of consistency of amount of work from day to day. We held a staff meeting on Monday to look at this. Teachers discussed each other's approaches online with the focus on consistency of work.”
Nicky Hughes is the Headteacher at St John’s. She agrees with Andrew’s comments about agility. She told us, “One of our teachers heard some anecdotal negative feedback on Maths. She was really worried about it and came to me. We realised we could adjust the Ombea check-in to ask about Maths, so we did. We put it out on Friday and by Monday we had masses of insight. The staff got together, went through it, tweaked our approach, and we were done. It’s so quick to double-check these anecdotal comments. I’m sure we’ll be doing more of that in the future!”
So the schools have enjoyed the volume and type of insight, as well as the agility. What else? Over to Rosie Eastwood, Headteacher at Cholsey, for her view. “I have been analysing the results every week and feeding back comments to our teaching staff. As a result of feedback we have made some minor adjustments to our remote learning offer and followed up with any families where they have identified their children are struggling. It has been fantastic to see the level of support from families!”
But isn’t all of this just a survey tool? Not really. Andrew put it best when he told us, “Honestly, I was a bit dismissive of this at first. I thought it was just another survey, and we already have both Google Forms and Microsoft. Then I heard the other Heads talking about the feedback they were getting and I had to take a closer look. I’m glad I did. This really isn’t just another survey tool!”
And finally, Rosie wrapped it up best. “In summary I would say it has been a fantastic tool to be able to use to reach out and get real time feedback from staff and parents. So easy to use too ! I imagine our families have welcomed the survey each week because it is a way that they can keep in touch and let us know how we are doing - parents do like to do this!”