WESTBOURNE School in Penarth is celebrating its outstanding teaching staff, inspired by Teacher Appreciation Week 2021.
The school, which has recently reopened its doors following the national school closures, has been applauded by parents for its handling of the pandemic and the focus placed throughout lockdown on pupil safety and wellbeing.
This month sees students, parents and friends of the school, in the local community and further afield, come together to pay tribute to Westbourne’s teaching heroes.
These are teachers who routinely go above and beyond their normal teaching duties – including providing unprecedented levels of support to pupils during the pandemic, both academically and pastorally; initiating new ways of thinking and learning during lockdown to help pupils thrive; and participating in initiatives outside school to help those in need in the wider community.
Here’s some of their teacher heroes:
Year 6 teacher, Jessica Armstrong
The inspirational DofE leader helping women and children in need.
She is currently spearheading the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme at the school, and also leads a variety of extra-curricular student groups including Running Club and Maths Booster Club to help pupils transition back to Maths class following lockdown.
On Saturday she led a Duke of Edinburgh expedition training weekend for Year 10, 11 and Sixth Form, where pupils learnt vital survival skills such as understanding kit and equipment, map reading and route planning, cooking and first aid.
She accompanied pupils on a six-hour orienteering session, covering 17km through Dyffryn and Wenvoe.
In addition to her day job, she is also involved with the charity Cardiff Women’s Aid which helps women and children who have been victims of domestic abuse and gender-based violence in often life-threatening situations.
She has worked with the charity on setting up an Information Hub for women looking for support and advice.
Deputy Manager of Little Westbourne Nursery, Hannah Bennett
The nursery leader who helped raise £4,000
She has worked tirelessly over the past year to ensure the wellbeing and happiness of the children in her care.
She worked to keep the nursery running efficiently and safely during lockdown, when many local nurseries had closed their doors, manning the nursery with one other colleague for the children of key workers in addition to rolling out a lively programme of daily online learning and motivational activities for children at home. During lockdown, she also led one-to-one Zoom sessions with children and their parents to ensure the highest levels of pastoral support.
She went above and beyond her normal teaching duties when, in March 2021, she helped organise a fundraising campaign in aid of the Down’s Syndrome Association, inspired by a child close to the heart of Little Westbourne Nursery, raising an incredible £4,000.
Stuart Ayres, Director of Online Learning
The innovative teacher helping students gain new skills during lockdown
Westbourne is one of the first schools in Wales to use AI (artificial intelligence) technology to help pupils learn.
It was also ahead of the curve in its appointment of a Director of Online Education before the UK went into lockdown, meaning that Westbourne could move seamlessly to a full online learning offering from Day 1 of the nationwide school closures.
Director of Online Learning, Stuart Ayres, established an innovative tech partnership that enabled the school to deliver a ground-breaking online learning platform backed by artificial intelligence and the latest thinking in neuroscience.
The platform works by generating mini-lessons that students use to complement their studies. If a student requires guidance in a particular academic area, the platform recognises this and recommends mini-lessons to improve understanding.
It can even do this in a cross-curricular sense, for example suggesting English mini-lessons if a student’s misunderstanding of a Maths problem is based on a comprehension error. It also recognises when a student needs to be challenged, recommending limitless supplementary material in the core areas of English, Maths and Science.
Stuart Ayres said: “During lockdown, we continued to explore new ways of teaching, new resources and cutting-edge technologies to support pupils at every stage.
“Uniquely, Westbourne offered a combination of heavily personalised learning alongside the latest in AI-assisted learning technology, which undoubtedly helped our pupils to thrive.
“There has been concern in the media about students losing skills and academic knowledge during lockdown – it was quite the opposite in our case.
“Students actually came back to school with more refined digital skills than before, thanks to the new technology.
“Artificial intelligence has now become part of the make-up of the school, and we continue to use it to enhance learning now that we are back in the physical classroom.
“In doing so we’ve been able to elevate the student experience at Westbourne to a whole new – and very exciting – level.”
Principal of Westbourne School, Dr Gerard Griffiths, said: “We count ourselves very lucky at Westbourne to have such a talented and dedicated teaching team. Teachers here regularly go far beyond what is required of them to support, motivate and engage pupils at an extremely high level.
“It’s only fitting that we take this opportunity, during Teacher Appreciation Week, to discuss and celebrate all that our teachers do on a daily basis, both in and out of school.
“Even during the pandemic, when the odds have been stacked against us all, their love for the job and desire to see pupils succeed has been unwavering.”