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An Open Letter. On the Covid-19 Pandemic and Where Next for Schools. Jared Nolan. Principal and CEO. Al Yasmina Academy Abu Dhabi.
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An Open Letter. On the Covid-19 Pandemic and Where Next for Schools. Jared Nolan. Principal and CEO. Al Yasmina Academy Abu Dhabi.

by Jared NolanJanuary 21, 2022

An Open Letter. On the Covid-19 Pandemic and Where Next for Schools.

Dear Parents and Colleagues

Distance learning has by its nature, needed to be different to in-school learning, but when done well and supported by a committed community, it has kept learning losses minimal, improved resilience, fostered independence, and accelerated many aspects of our student’s educational journey.

Although it presents different challenges to different age children and their families, a key aspect to overcoming this was using the correct age-appropriate online learning platform.

For us, the fact that our staff and students were already adept at using platforms such as Teams, Blackboard and Seesaw to facilitate learning, not only made the transition easier, but also enabled us to quickly find the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning at each phase of the school.

We did of course have to support the learning journey for many parents through newsletters and tutorials, but after two years, they are also very adept in their use of these platforms.

Our younger students, clearly more dependent on parental support thrived on the ability to engage in some live lessons, combined with being able to access pre-recorded sessions. The ability to be able to complete and submit work at times to suit their parents meant that although learning continued as expected, it often happened in shorter chunks spread over a longer day.

Older students, including those studying for exams, also benefited from the instant online access they had to learning materials. Being able to revisit content, tasks, and feedback, combined with almost constant access to their teachers who offered almost 24-hour support and guidance online, particularly to those students in critical examination years.

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However, after so much disruption to routines for such a long period of time, with parents needing to get their lives back to normal, and important social aspects of schools that cannot be met online, I think the whole of our school community is pleased to see a physical return to school in the coming week/s.

We will all be making the most of the opportunities a return to face-to-face learning offers – but will of course continue to utilise the advantages that our distance learning platforms have presented for our students and families.

The requirement for both staff and pupils to present a negative PCR result before returning to face-to-face learning does present schools with a significant administrative burden but to date, has proven to be a sensible requirement for schools, particularly after school holidays.

I am in no doubt that identifying cases prior to school a school return is one of the reasons that a school as large as Al Yasmina with 2400 pupils, has been forced to close for no more than a few days during the pandemic.

We have also been able to keep in school transmissions to almost zero over time, both something that has been noted welcomed by our community.

We have all noted and followed with interest, the difference in approaches both in the UAE and across the globe, and in general, I think UAE has got the balance right. When compared with what has happened in parts of Europe – with almost no restrictions or testing, and struggling health care, or in places like Australia – where cities such as Melbourne have spent over 260 days in lockdown since the pandemic started, it is easy to become complacent about how safe we have been and how relatively unaffected our lives have been.

However, after 2 years, as the virus adapts, it seems clear that we are going to have to adapt with it.

With the Omicron variant spreading so quickly across the globe, and many people being more asymptomatic than with other variants, we may have to rethink our testing strategy and our school closure policy.

Our school community is and will remain incredibly resilient, resourceful, and successful.

But a complete return to distance learning for the term isn’t something any of us want to see.

External examinations, retention and recruitment of teachers, and the mental health and wellbeing of our school community, all benefit from schools remaining physically open.

Yours truly

Jared Nolan

Principal and CEO. Al Yasmina Academy Abu Dhabi.

Notes for Parents.

Read our independent review of Al Yasmina Academy in Abu Dhabi here.

Read more about Al Yasmina Academy at the official school web site here.

© SchoolsCompared.com. 2022. All rights of the author reserved.

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Jared Nolan

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