For schools across Scotland – and the globe – 2020 did not go to plan. From cancelled exams to virtual learning to social distancing, the changes were many. And for the staff of Robert Gordon’s College that meant they had to keep on their toes not just to ensure that pupils continued to receive an education, but also to keep the feeling of togetherness and support even when miles apart.
Head of Robert Gordon’s College, Robin Macpherson, credits the school’s foundation of innovation as part of its success in the face of an international pandemic.
“Throughout this year, we have been true to our core value of innovation and have found new ways to do just about everything.
“Perhaps the most important thing has been keeping a strong feeling of community, which was wonderfully evident on the day that pupils returned to school at the start of term. Events like Founder’s Day and Remembrance were reminders of just how special a place this is to be.”
He continued: “I should also make special mention of Lauren, who took part in the Rickshaw Challenge for Children in Need, and Sami who invented an app for track and trace which has been a superb help to the hospitality industry.
“These are just two examples of our pupils doing their bit for the wider community, and we’re so proud of them for that.”
Already a Google school, RGC utilised Google Classroom and iPads to carry on the school year remotely, and although everyone had a lot to learn in the process, it was an easier transition as staff and pupils were already familiar with the software and hardware.
“There can be no doubt that it has been tremendously hard for the teaching and operational staff and limitations on teaching and learning have had to be factored in and compensated for. Practical subjects have been especially tough.
“But the staff have been superb and pupil learning has been admirable.”
Testing this term has shown that lockdown didn’t result in a drop in learning, something many headteachers had been worried about earlier this year.
And creating a specific group to focus returning to the classroom helped work through any changes too.
“We had a ‘Return to School’ working group of senior and operational staff and this met regularly throughout the summer. This morphed into a Covid-19 Working Group that currently meets weekly, which reviews all guidance and makes key decisions.
“Crucial to our success has been that every single person, without exception, has taken this crisis incredibly seriously and puts maximum effort into all measures. You won’t find anyone who relishes the cleaning protocols that we do, but everyone does it without fail.”
He added: “When the quad filled up with pupils on the first day back, it was a special moment.”
Looking to the future, Robin can see green shoots coming out of lockdown that the school will carry forward, particularly in the use of technology.
“We had the technology we needed, but we probably didn’t use it to the maximum prior to lockdown because we didn’t really need to.
“Now, with a much fuller knowledge of the software we have at our disposal, we have diversified our methods of teaching and assessing learning. I think assessment in particular is an area that technology is impacting what we do.
“You just have to look at an app like Socrative and how it saves time on marking to see the benefit.”
He added: “I would just like to say a massive ‘thank you’ to everyone for keeping everything going, and doing so well.
“A community like ours runs on goodwill, and we’ve seen that in abundance. I have huge respect for every section of our community, and I have never been prouder to work in education.”
Find out more about Robert Gordon’s College, and find out more about applying, by visiting the school’s website.