Tell us about your idea
As South Africa proceeded into an extended lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, SPARK Schoolscommitted to ensuring that learning continued for our scholars across the network. Cognizant of the varying degree of internet and hardware access that SPARK scholars and their families have, our team developed a distance learning offering that we believed would prevent the development of academic gaps until schools reopen.
Shortly after the announcement of school closures, SPARK Schools launched a Home Learning Portal, which included academic resources for the foundation, intermediate, and senior phases, as well as ideas for Body Movement, Healthy Living, Creative Time, Age-Appropriate Chores, and Social-Emotional Learning. Each phase had a suggested timetable, with recommended “academic time” in line with developmentally-appropriate guidance.
In connecting with the parents and guardians of SPARK scholars after launching the Home Learning Portal, we became aware of the following challenges they faced:
Many SPARK parents are essential workers or are working full-time from home during lockdown, and they were looking for a solution that would independently teach their children, rather than requiring their attention and effort for tutoring and support.
Parents wanted additional feedback about their child’s progress, and they were looking for a solution that would mark their child’s work and guide them on the skills their child needed to focus upon during at-home learning.
Social connection had been lost, to an extent, during lockdown, and parents were looking for a solution that would provide a human connection to the school their child missed.
SPARK parents acknowledged that SPARK’s teaching methods, language, and culture were unique, and they expressed that they wanted their child to have access to lessons facilitated by SPARK educators using SPARK’s personalised and engaging methods and language.
In response to those challenges and needs, we launched a further distance learning offering on the Home Learning Portal. Beginning the week of 20 April, began providing grade and subject-specific video lessons and follow-up assignments, which are updated weekly. These video lessons and assignments feature SPARK school leaders and educators and are easily accessible via the Home Learning Portal. The assignments, created using the Google suite of educational tools, feature automatic marking, so that parents receive real-time feedback on their child’s academic progress. By mastering the skills in each week’s posted videos, scholars will be prepared for strong academic performance upon schools reopening.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.
Bailey Thomson Blake joined the founding team of SPARK Schools in 2012 and led the initial design and implementation of the network's learning models. In her role as Chief of Schools, Bailey leads the teams responsible for the research, design, and innovation of SPARK's blended and personalised learning models, as well as the school management team responsible for the instructional and operational outcomes of each of the network's 21 schools. To ensure that SPARK Schools delivers high quality, affordable education in accordance with its mission, Bailey drives strategic decisions related to the execution of operations, the experience of all stakeholders, and the empowerment of school leaders.