On Tuesday morning, Juliette Lipshaw, head of one the country’s largest Jewish primaries, Sinai, addressed a morning assembly on the theme of resilience.
While most of the Kenton school’s classrooms might have been empty this week, its head was leading its new online operation from the front.
“We started contingency planning a month ago,” said a Sinai spokesman. “Home-learning packs were sent to all children two weeks ago and we have set children up online through Google Classroom.”
As well as assembly, there’s daily maths, English and Jewish studies, along with sessions in other subjects including French and art and even PE. “There is also a bedtime story read by staff every day. And all teachers are contactable every day from nine till four.”
School remained open for a few children of designated key workers, as it did at Bury and Whitefield Primary in Manchester.
“The most we have had in school on one day is seven,” said Bury and Whitefield headteacher Claire Simon. “Our parents have been very good and have listened to the government and are sharing staying at home with their children.
“It feels strange for school to be quiet and not hear the sounds of lots of little voices. Those children coming into school have to be apart from each other and sit a distance away at lunch-time.”
Anticipating possible closure a month ago, she took steps to organise home-based work. “We were ready when the closures came,” she said. “Our children were very upset to finish school on Friday but fully understood why, as we had explained the reason.
“We are coping but hope people will be sensible so that we can all resume normal life as soon as possible, but sadly I fear it will not be for a long time.”
Spencer Lewis, executive headteacher of the Yavneh schools in Hertfordshire, said primary pupils had received “bespoke learning packs” with both online and other work to complete, while the secondary students were using Microsoft Teams and SharePoint which “enables teachers to post lessons and receive completed work in return”.
Distance learning, he acknowledged, was “a work in progress and both children and staff are learning”.
Kantor King Solomon High School in Redbridge said students had either received home packs or were using online resources and were able to contact teachers.
It was extending opening into the spring break, except for Pesach, for vulnerable children or those of key workers. “There has been minimal take-up of the service in school as students are clearly safest staying at home,” said headteacher Hannele Reece. “However, we are determined to be there to support all front-line workers who are helping to keep the country safe at this time of national crisis.”
The London-based Jewish ed-tech organisation Jewish Interactive this week launched a new site for children aged five to nine, Ji Bytes, to enable parents and teachers to provide an hour of Jewish programming a day.
Ji’s home-learning hub already provides access to 100 courses a day, while the organisation has more than 11,000 Jewish educational games in store.