Looking back, looking forward
The unexpected arrival of Coronavirus brought with it an unprecedented situation for us all. Life was disrupted and parents, children and teachers had to adapt quickly.
We would like to thank the entire BEPS community for their support during these unusual times. We are proud of the dedication and adaptability the BEPS teachers demonstrated. Each virtual interaction required a huge amount of time and energy from our teachers, many of whom had to maintain the balance between their professional duties with the role of a parent.
We also appreciate the continuous commitment that all parents made to support their children and ensure they were engaged in their online learning.
We consistently reflected on the implications distance learning held for our community. We have considered both the immediate issues and the longer-term outlook to ensure the security and continued success of BEPS.
Looking back over the past few months
Following guidance from the World Health Organisation, the Belgian Government, ONE (Belgian Office for Children) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, our Crisis Team took all the possible precautions and reviewed the situation on a daily basis.
As a result, we took the decision to close the school at an early stage, as we believed this was the safest thing to do and was in the best interests of our entire community.
Perhaps what we are most proud of, is the speed and agility we all demonstrated during the unexpected shift from learning in school to distance learning. Resilience continued to be the greatest strength of our community.
Learning during the coronavirus
The aim of our distance learning was:
- To ensure a continuous learning experience whenever and wherever learners needed it
- To continue providing meaningful learning opportunities, which are differentiated and challenging for each child whilst offering various learning experiences (brain friendly/multiple intelligences)
- To continue providing opportunities for engagement with teachers and peers
The entire BEPS team was focused on developing our online learning capabilities to deliver the best learning experience for each child. Class and Specialist teachers were in regular contact with their classes to provide them with ongoing support and guidance. They continued to plan relevant and appropriate learning according to the curriculum and introduce new concepts or learning activities by modelling learning and using a range of resources.
The positive outcomes we observed were that our students:
- Developed their independence and organisational skills.
- Took greater ownership of their learning.
- Worked at their own pace.
- Felt freer, less inhibited and participated more confidently.
- Developed the attributes outlined in the Personal Goals or Learner Profile such as adaptability, thoughtfulness, and communication.
- Met regularly with teachers, either individually, in small groups or whole classes to focus on learning and to sustain social interaction.
- Developed their creativity within their home environment, increased their awareness of recycling materials and resources.
In addition, in our Secondary school students:
- Were able to explore learning by further pursuing lines of inquiry they found interesting
- Shared documents and screens allowing one-to-one interaction to become more effective so that feedback was specific and targeted
- Asked their own questions more precisely, unhindered by group dynamics
- Collaborated effectively using microphone commentary whilst editing shared documents
- Were involved in significant conversations supporting their wellbeing
- Developed significant affective skills
- Used real world business work habits, allowing preparation for the future alongside authentic learning.
As soon as the Belgian authorities outlined their roadmap for the gradual reopening of schools, we offered the opportunity for some year groups to return to school, and taking careful steps, continued with the full reopening.
Although this was not an easy task, it was organised around a comprehensive set of health and wellbeing guidelines and procedures. We were committed to meeting the best interests of our students and parents.
School fees 2020-2021
As these are challenging times for us all, we have given careful consideration to the ways in which BEPS could help the community financially.
The BEPS Board has decided not to raise the school fees for the school year 2020-2021. The 1.25% increase in the annual tuition fee, previously announced, will be cancelled.
Plans for the next school year
As always, BEPS teachers are committed to providing quality learning experiences for the children whether they are in school or at home. Based on the current trends in Belgium, our focus at this moment, is to plan for a safe and successful return to school in September 2020 for all our students.
We favour learning taking place in a school setting. However, we will also continue to enhance the quality of our teaching and learning. We will create a new normal which maximises the best of both ‘in school’ and distance learning. Therefore, as we continue to extend and embed our online learning approach at school, children will continue developing their skills, accessing learning through the internet, using digital resources, online platforms and apps.
Please see here the Matrix* showing the BEPS 2020-2021 school year scenarios.
Looking to the future
The Covid-19 Crisis has created opportunities for radical changes in the way we live and work, and how we interact with the world around us. Schools will need to review their organisations and practices to mirror these changes and to prepare their students for the future.
Along with other International Schools, BEPS is considering how to embrace these opportunities. In October, we plan to engage the whole school community in a reflection on, and review of our vision and mission statements.
The 2019-2020 school year was difficult, it challenged us, but we showed our resilience. We now need to consolidate everything we have learned this year to create a new future for BEPS.