Wayne Howsen shares The Aquila School's distance learning experience

In our exclusive interview with Principal Wayne Howsen, we discuss The Aquila School’s experience with distance learning and how the school is preparing to potentially welcome students back in September for the next academic year.

How has The Aquila School responded to Covid-19 and what do you envision for the coming academic year?

hg0088手机版登录Over time we have adapted our distance learning at home with our own evaluation and responses from children, staff and families. The biggest change has been the move to more and more live lessons and small group teaching. This allows the teachers to really focus on individual needs, ensuring that every child makes as much progress as possible. One of the things we often say in school is that what the children learn today influences what we plan for them to learn tomorrow – and this is truer than ever in learning at home.

What were some of the highs and lows of distance learning during this period?

The highs have been the events that bring us all together – the twice-weekly whole school assemblies, wellbeing Wednesdays, whole school aerobics every Thursday, and a themed project-based learning every Thursday for the whole school, ranging from cooking from scratch to putting on a puppet show. My two highlights from these events are the whole school party week when every class took part in a challenge to organise and hold an online party, and the talent show, where every child and adult in the school had the opportunity to present a one minute video of their talent for everyone else to enjoy.

There have been no lows, as everything was looked at as a learning experience. We are, however, always missing the pupils being physically in the school and cannot wait to be back together in the school building.

Should schools implement new curriculums based around distance learning for the future?

Schools have a given curriculum to follow based on if they are US, UK or IB accredited. Schools have to follow this curriculum regardless of distance learning. We have ensured that our pupils are still getting the required curriculum content that we can then continue once the pupils return to school. The only curriculum that we have had to adapt is the Early Years curriculum. While good teachers can cover a lot of curriculum through creativity and imagination, there are a few aspects of the Early Years curriculum that are not entirely possible to teach without being together in school.

Do you think that blended learning will become the new norm? How does it bring out the best in teachers and students?

I think more people will be open to the blended learning approach, as it will also give families more flexibility. It is, however, logistically complicated to organise and it cannot replicate the sense of community and learning together that being in a physical school commands.

How is The Aquila School preparing to welcome back students in September?

At The Aquila School, our entire school team, supported by ISP, is exploring a variety of different scenarios for the next academic year. While we are waiting for more guidance from the authorities on school reopening, we have our guiding principles around reopening our school. We are also engaging with our stakeholders so that we can take a collaborative approach to reopening.

Any decision made will ensure that we maximize on-premise learning and offer the broadest curriculum possible while maintaining the health and safety of our pupils and staff. We believe our guiding principles make us well-prepared for reopening whenever that happens and allows us to be responsive to suit the needs of our families. At The Aquila School, we remain committed to providing a safe and healthy environment where learning remains central.

About the Speaker

Wayne Howsen has over twenty-eight years' experience as a teacher and has been a school Principal for over twenty years, both in the UK and the UAE.

Wayne is proud to be the founding Principal of The Aquila School. He has been in the UAE for the last 10 years and has previously led the first school ever in Abu Dhabi, to be graded as outstanding in all areas and later, the first school to be graded outstanding in two consecutive inspections.

Along with a teaching qualification, Wayne holds the UK National Professional Qualification for Headship, as well as an MA in Education.

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