Lockdown has provided Year 12 students at Rivers Academy West London with the unexpected opportunity to acquire skills that will help them in the workplace.  

Choosing to take a glass half-full attitude to a difficult situation has allowed sixth formers at the school to use this experience to gain vital life skills that will benefit them in their professional lives in the future. 

It has been a priority for the post-16 team that Year 12s at the academy take lessons from this time period, including the need to adapt, think creativity, and problem-solve efficiently.

Enuma Afulukwe, Assistant Principal and Director of Post-16, highlighted how the department has assisted Year 12 students to reap the positives from what is continuing to be an uncertain time. 

She said: “We have put the students at the forefront of this problem-solving process by holding meetings with them, and asking them what and how they would like to learn.

“By doing this, it allows them to see, in action, what being solution-focussed looks like.

“It would be very easy for them to just stick to the remote learning, but I want them to see and be a part of the process of coming up with and implementing new ideas, so that they can then apply that to everything that they do.

“Above all, it is teaching them and instilling in them the value of adaptability” she added.

Enuma believes that the pupils can draw reference to these skills in their CVs, personal statements, and future interviews, which is why it is so important to capitalise on it now. 

“We are explaining to them how even things like participating in conference calls in a professional way, rather than just FaceTiming their friends, for example, is one way that they are gaining experience from this process” Enuma added.

As the nationwide lockdown was partially lifted and Years 10 and 12 were allowed limited face-to-face contact in schools again, Enuma and her team held virtual and on-site meetings with students to begin a smooth transition. 

“They began with 20-minute wellbeing sessions. Essentially just checking in, asking them how they have been feeling, how they have found the remote learning process, and encouraging them to actually talk about what has been going on” Ms Afulukwe said. 

The meetings would continue to speak about UCAS, how the pandemic might have changed the students’ career ambitions, and finally, offering the students a platform to give their thoughts on how and what they would like to learn for the remainder of the academic year.

The students had plenty of thoughts, including moving straight onto A2 content in preparation for starting Year 13 in September, having interactive virtual lessons, and having less assessment due to the break in face-to-face learning. 

The students have been advised that although the team have been actively seeking their opinions, the lessons will ultimately be designed by the teaching staff, with an overview of Year 12 students’ suggestions in mind. 

Moving forward, the sessions have been designed by Rivers’ Post 16 teaching staff to reflect the opinions that were gathered, and the decision-making process continues to be student-led. 

Ms Afulukwe explained: “The decision whether the students come back on-site for these sessions or learn virtually from home lies with the students themselves. 

“I have left that for them to decide what they think is best. Some have expressed enthusiasm about returning into school, while some have opted to participate from home for a variety of reasons.

“Going through this entire process, we are a part of history” she added.

Anna Robinson, Deputy Director of Post-16, has sat in on Year 12 virtual lessons this week, and has commended the students on their acclimatisation to these sessions. 

She said: “Lessons are interactive with students muting and unmuting their microphones to answer questions.

“It was really interesting to see how students are interacting with their teachers and peers in a similar way to how we teachers interact with each other.

“Their fast adaptability to this new method of learning has upskilled them and better equipped them for when they enter the workplace.” 

The virtual lessons will continue throughout this term, with all being recorded for safeguarding and for teaching and learning purposes.

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