May 2020 FAQ

Frequently Asked Question

South Morningside Parent Council has worked with the school to try to answer some of the questions parents and carers are asking most often while the school is closed. We’ve made every effort to make sure the answers are clear, concise and accurate but thoughts on how they could be improved, particularly as circumstances change, are always welcome. We will try to update the FAQ as often as we can but of course we’re also working and caring for our own kids, as well as trying to do our bit as volunteers on the Parent Council.

Planning your home learning

Do we really have to do all the assigned work?
The Scottish government has made it clear that parents and carers are not expected to be teachers, nor to home educate in the formal sense. The needs and circumstances of families will vary considerably depending on their child’s specific needs, their household circumstances, and their knowledge and confidence.
The school is seeking to provide materials and activities that would allow parents and carers to support children to cover the same core learning that they would at school but it is clear that not all parents, carers and children will be in a position to complete all this work. Your children’s well-being comes first.

How much work should we do each day? What kind of timetable should we follow?
Try to set up a regular timetable that works for you and your children. Make sure you build in time for snacks, breaks and physical activity as well as more formal learning. Even if a parent or carer is available all day, it won’t necessarily be practical or necessary to expect children be work from 9.00 – 3.25pm every day. Government guidance suggests 3-4 hours a day or 15 hours over a week.

Other than what the school provides, what other support is available?

How can we help ensure our children’s mental health and well-being?
The school has shared some advice about supporting children who are anxious about coronavirus. For many children though the hardest thing will not be fear of the disease itself but the disruption of their routines and particularly the inability to see friends and extended family.

While we are physically distancing, social closeness remains more important than ever and many of us are staying in touch with online chats, video calls or by telephone. For P5-7 children there is a chat function on Teams that will allow them to stay in touch with their classmates. The school will also seek to speak with specific children before the school holidays where it is important for different reasons to do so.

Where can I find the learning for my child’s class or year?
Nursery & P1-2 children’s work will be updated via your Learning Journal.
P3-4 children work will be updated by class on the school website
P5-7 children work will be updated by class on the school website as above but also on your child’s Teams account.

When will these be updated?
All classes/years will be updated on Friday for the week ahead. Resources will not be updated on public holidays or inset days when the school would normally be closed.

How can I share progress with teachers?
This is possible via Teams and the Learning Journal, and your teachers will respond to the work you share when they can. P3-4s are being asked to share updates, work or related photos with their teachers by email. P7s teachers are trialling the use of the assignments function on Teams.

Are there not better ways that we could manage online learning?
The school had to move very quickly to put in place the best systems it could to support remote learning based on existing capacities. There are undoubtedly many things that could and should be improved but there are also many other demands on teachers and support staff, just as there are on parents and carers. Different schools all entered this crisis with slightly different capacities to support remote learning based, for example, on whether their teams included specialist digital support staff and how widely they had already rolled out digital learning platforms such as Teams and Learning Journals. Most schools continue to use a mix of these platforms, plus some others, and their websites, to support remote learning. Where schools had strong pre-existing capacities, they have been able to adapt very quickly in some cases and there may be things we can learn from them. The school cannot though simply replicate what other schools may be doing overnight where this is based on different pre-existing capacities or where the school has made decisions based on the age appropriateness of materials and learning platforms.

What are teachers doing now?
Many teachers are supporting and caring for their own children. Some are working in the hubs set up to teach the children of essential workers. A lot of time is spent supporting parents and children who are having issues and responding to their questions and suggestions. They are also of course preparing and posting the learning materials on the different platforms we are using. The school leadership team is also preparing to contact as many children as possible before the holidays and is particularly concerned to reach families with whom they have had no contact to date. Teachers are also learning about and experimenting with new tools and ways of connecting with students, for example Mrs Richardson and Mrs Moore have created the school’s first video assemblies. This all means that time to make improvements to our remote learning systems or for individual contact with children is tight.

Couldn’t teachers run video classes?
The school has now provided some training and support to teachers to help them make their online learning materials more engaging, for example by creating PowerPoint presentations with accompanying voice overs. These approaches are likely to be used particularly where a new topic or concept is being introduced.
There are significant concerns from some teachers and the EIS teaching union about live streaming video lessons from teacher’s homes. Where other schools have run such classes, attendance has sometimes been poor and there is a very real risk that basing learning around online video conferencing could further exclude children with more limited access to the internet. These children already risk suffering disproportionately as a result of the school closure and preventing a widening of the educational attainment gap is one of the school’s primary concerns at this time.

Digital learning, communities and platforms

Why are P3-4s not on Teams/OneNote?
Well before the coronavirus outbreak, South Morningside Primary School was an early adopter of OneNote as a way of supporting home learning. After evaluating the suitability of the platform for different age groups, the school took the decision that it was most suitable for P5-7 children. This was because it is a powerful but relatively complex platform. There were concerns not just about its appropriateness for younger children, but also about the levels of support that many children, and indeed parents, would need to use it effectively. Teams was rolled out across Edinburgh Schools by the Council more recently and South Morningside took the view that it was also best suited to P5-7 children. Some schools, particularly where they had in house support from specialist staff, took a different view and are of course benefiting from this now that all learning is taking place remotely. Rolling out Teams to P3-4 children would be a huge undertaking at the best of times, and there are specific challenges at present, including the need for support from council staff to create new logins for a large number of children. The school still has longer-term concerns about whether these platforms are the best way to support home learning by P3-4 students in the future and it is worth noting that many parents and children who have access to Teams still prefer to use the website for at least some of the time. In addition to the website, P3-4 children and their families can now contact their teachers by email and we are exploring using a private area of the school website to allow us to share more content with P3-4s including videos.

Who do I talk to if I am having trouble logging into Teams?
Please email the school admin@southmorningside.edin.sch.uk

How do I find and use the different features on Teams and OneNote?
Teams is quite a complex system with links to OneNote and other parts of the Microsoft 365 suite of tools. You will need to spend time exploring it and playing with it to get familiar with how it works and all the different tabs and features. I’m afraid you can’t expect to sit down and start learning straight away the first time you start the programme up and you may find there are some things that you can do more easily on the school website.
Finding your home learning resources on Teams

  • On the left-hand side of the screen is a tab called ‘Teams’ and if you click on this it will display all the subjects that are relevant for your child’s level.
  • Within the subject you have clicked on, on the left, you can then click on your child’s year.
  • Now Teams will display a series of ‘Posts’ from year teachers on the subject you are in – these posts will usually tell you about and link to new resources – if you look at the top of the window you can switch from ‘Posts’ to ‘Files’ where you will see just the attachments with the resources.
  • Click on a resource in Posts or Files to preview it, click on the three dots at the top right of this window for the option to download the resource and open it outside of Teams – which may make it easier to read.
  • To go back to the subject menu you can hit back on your browser or the ‘ < All teams ‘ text towards the top left of the Teams window you are in.
    Class chat function
  • On the page listing the Teams your child is part of there will also be a team with the name of their class – click on this to access the chat ‘channels’ set up by your teacher
  • Channels are listed on the left of this new window – click into each one to see what’s there.
  • At least one of the channels will include a place where children can leave messages for the class, not just the teacher

Sharing your learning with your teacher on OneNote

  • Although OneNote and Teams are link it is probably easier to access them separately
  • Once you open OneNote there are a series of resources including topics and activities that pre-date the current school closure
  • On the left hand side of the window, click on the tab with your child’s name
  • This will open another set of tabs that again include current and older material
  • Different teachers my use different tabs but at the bottom you will find one labelled ‘My Home Learning’ and when you click on this it should open another sub-menu on the left with page headers you can click on to open each page
  • When you have page open, you can add to a page by clicking the ‘Edit in Browser’ option at the top of the window with the pen icon.
  • Once you have clicked ‘Edit in Browser’ you can either type messages or use the Microsoft Word style editing options to create your own headings, insert photos/files/links or draw.
  • Leave details here of the home learning you are doing for your teacher and you may receive some feedback or encouragement.

Why are we using Teams/One Note given the issues it causes?
Teams, OneNote and the wider Microsoft 365 suite of programmes were selected and are being supported by Edinburgh Council. They are relatively complex, particularly for younger children, but also very powerful. Not every P5-7 child or family has to use every part of the system to benefit from it. The school will continue to provide as much support as it can to those children, parents and carers who need it, but teachers and support staff also have different levels of confidence in their use of the platform. Some P5-7 children and their parents and carers do still rely on the school website as well as or instead of Teams.

Couldn’t you use Groupcall/ Xpressions to just email the require work to each class/year?
Neither the system itself, nor the school admin team, have the capacity to make this a viable alternative at present.

How can we feedback to school with ideas and concerns?
They school is preparing a survey about the experience parents and carers are having with home learning. If you have further questions or corrections you think should be made to this FAQ you can email communications@sm-pc.org. For questions or suggestions for the school you can email admin@southmorningside.edin.sch.uk but please be aware the school is dealing with a very high volume of questions and suggestions at present. Do contact the school if you need help but please be aware that time spent responding to questions and suggestions is time they cannot spend supporting current learning, or planning and delivering improvements.

Returning to School

When will school reopen?
We don’t know when the school will reopen but Scottish Government ministers have indicated that it isn’t likely to be before the new school year in August 2020. When school does restart, we should not assume that all children will return at the same time and resume classes as normal. Indications of when schools in Scotland may begin to reopen will probably come first from the Scottish Government but specific arrangements will then need to follow in updates from Edinburgh Council and South Morningside Primary School. There will almost inevitably be some delay between the announcement and the release of specific details of how any changes will be implemented. Please also remember that because education is a devolved matter, UK government announcements regarding the reopening of schools have no direct impact on the situation in Scotland.
How can schools reopen while maintaining physical distancing to keep everyone safe?
No decisions have been made about how schools will reopen but it is quite possible there may be some changes to how many children can attend school and classes at the same time.
Will P7s be the first to return?
The Scottish Government has indicated in its updated framework for decision making that any return to school is likely to be phased and schools will not be open as normal for the foreseeable future. So far there is no timescale given for any return to school beyond saying it is unlikely to be until the new school year in August. The Scottish Government has also said that priority will be given to vulnerable pupils and those facing major transitions, such as P7 pupils.

In terms of what a phased return might look like it is perhaps worth quoting directly from the framework (Section 4, final para): “To enable ongoing physical distancing, most pupils are likely to have a blend of in-school and in-home learning. This would include attending school part-time in blocks of a few days or even a week at a time, to enable deep cleaning of schools between groups. Learning at home will be supported by consistent, high-quality online materials which will be developed to support the curriculum.”
Will the new school on Canaan Lane still be able to open in August 2021 as planned?
All work on the Canaan Lane site has currently been paused and it is not clear when they will recommence. The Scottish Government has suggested that some outdoor work and activity may recommence before indoor work and activity but is not clear how this will relate to construction work, where maintaining physical distancing during many activities may be challenging.

There was at least three months between the expected completion of building works on the new school and opening date but it is not currently clear if this will be a sufficient cushion. Neither the school nor the parent council has received any updates at this time regarding when works will recommence or what contingency planning, if any, is being done against the possibility that the new school will not be able to open as planned for the 2021/22 academic year.

Can we keep same teachers next year for continuity?
Unfortunately it won’t be possible for mostcmost to keep the same teachers as over a quarter of teachers tend to move on from the school each year, and keeping all the remaining teachers with their existing classes would make reorganising classes and schedules extremely difficult. Most children will however stay with the same classmates.

How will P7s be supported in their transition to Secondary school
The school is in discussions with Boroughmuir High School and looking at how this could be achieved. The school is still planning a proper send off for P7s whenever school resumes, including the grand march down the stairwell and the ringing of the old school bell.

 

Suggestions for additions, updates or corrections to the FAQ?

Email us

June Update

The last Parent Council meeting of the academic year saw quite a large turn out, probably thanks to the recent clubs announcement!  The estimated profit from last weekend’s Summer Fair is £6,600-7,000!A massive thank you to all who helped and all of you that braved the pouring rain to come and support the school!

 Accommodation
The big news is that the main school is receiving £450,000 for many building improvements, in particular refurbishment of the windows, a new heating system and an electrical rewire. This is fantastic news for staff and children alike!

 Clubs
So the burning question… what’s happening with our clubs?! Well our clubs admin team (parent volunteers) came along and filled us in. They, along with Mrs Morgan, have been working exceptionally hard on this for some time and are working through several scenarios to sort this out. The main issues are:Due to refurbishment the school at Comiston Road will be closed every evening from 3.25 pm for the entirety of next school year. Note: after school and breakfast clubs are NOT affected.After next year the council intend to charge for clubs use in the school. Helpfully, councillor Mandy Watt was present and she is keen to meet with clubs admin to understand the issues and hopefully secure non-commercial rates.If alternative accommodation is found for next year, this raises insurance issues and complications with moving kids from after-school club to the new venue. Paying for room lets, insurance, minders to transport kids all costs money. Hopefully these charges will be shared across the clubs and not be too financially onerous but it will likely mean a reduction in revenue from the clubs to the PC.It really is incredibly complex but thankfully we have some dedicated, hard working, amazing parents on it. They could always do with more parents to help out though, so please do get in touch (clubs@sm-pc.org) if you’d like to get involved. 

Playground
This year the playground works at the main school have finally been completed which is an amazing achievement but it has left our funds depleted. Basically every year the PC commits to many recurring spends (around £14,000) and our current funds for next year cover this with only a very small surplus, so we really need a big push on fundraising. The school and PC would like a multi-use games area (MUGA) for the main school playground – this is not cheap so it’s something we’d really like to focus our fundraising efforts on! 

Fundraising
Speaking of which… most of our fundraising team are retiring having raised a staggering amount (over £100k!) through fairs over the last few years! We need some new, amazing people to get involved and start a new fundraising movement! Our school community needs it so please, if you have fundraising ideas or you want to help with organising and promoting events, please email fundraising@sm-pc.org! We’d love to hear from you, it will make such a difference! 

Comms
Keep an eye on our website as we are hoping to update it over the next couple of months and make it more relevant. If you are a whizz with WordPress, Google Docs or email and you want to volunteer a bit if time for our very friendly Comms group, please get in touch (comms@sm-pc.org). 

New roles!
Lastly a few role changes. Our wonderful chair Brian Sharp is stepping down and we have Olly Headey and Brendan Paddy taking on co-chair roles. Chris Hebden has managed to pass the treasurer baton to Jill Dallas, and Fiona Kippax signs off from fundraising. THANK YOU all so much!   

AGM
Our AGM will be taking place on September 2nd at 6:45pm, at Deanbank. It’s an important event and we encourage as many parents to come along as possible, to hear about the brilliant things our parent volunteers do and how you can help! Please put the date in your diary. Have a wonderful summer everyone! 

April Update

IT refresh

There have been 20 new laptops purchased for pupils to use and an upgrade to windows 10 for the teachers.

Building work

Currently the main school is having some ceilings strengthened as part of a £450,000 building refresh by Edinburgh council.

Playground works

Playground hedges will be put in shortly along the Comiston Road boundary, paid for by parent council fundraising, and our next funding goal is to raise money for a multi-use games area (MUGA) for the playground.

Deanbank building works

Safety concerns raised regarding the building of the new school have been passed on to Edinburgh council and we are hoping for a more formal response soon.

Transport survey

Following the transport survey we are hoping to start walking buses next year.

Grants
Funding was approved for ski club kit, buses to theatre productions and more!

March update

Funding

We approved additional funding for Nursery, P1s and P2s at Deanbank. We also approved an additional £10,000 to complete Phase 1 of the playground improvements at Comiston Rd (exciting!). Once these works are complete, we will be consulting the parent body again on plans for Phase 2 (including sports facilities) – also VERY exciting!. Watch this space!

Deanbank works

Concerns were raised about provision for health and safety at the demolition site for the new school – mainly access and noise levels. There may be more to follow on this.

PVG checks

We discussed some of the teething problems and solutions with securing PVG status for all adults involved in our school’s clubs – a mammoth task. All in all, a very productive meeting!