Coronavirus: How one school set up its own TV channel

A Fife school has created its own TV channel online where every day staff set activities and challenges for pupils

Emma Seith

Coronavirus: How one school in Scotland set up its own TV channel

In one video principal teacher Mrs Young can be found in her garden demonstrating how to grow plants from the pips and stones found in fruits like apples and avocados.

In another, learning support teacher Mrs Friel sets a science, technology, engineering and maths challenge. Standing on a chair in her living room dangling a Barbie from a bungee cord (a string of elastic bands), Mrs Friel asks pupils to make their own versions and estimate how long the cord needs to be to prevent Barbie meeting a tragic end.


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However, if pupils just want to sit back and relax, they can also listen to P7 teacher Mrs Calabria reading J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – she is on chapter six and there are currently eight instalments for them to work their way through.

This is just some of the content available on St Columba’s TV, an online channel set up by St Columba’s Primary in Cupar, Fife, where the teachers are posting a video a day in a bid to maintain “visual communication” with their children and families.

The result is like a mash-up of all sorts of popular children’s TV programmes from the reading show Jackanory to children’s science series Nina and the Neurons.

Keeping learning going amid the coronavirus crisis

Here, headteacher Stephen Morrison – who is also using the platform to continue to deliver school assemblies from his home – explains how the school got the channel up and running and shares some tips.

How did you get started?

"The idea of creating a visual communication with our parents, carers and pupils was originated by our wonderfully talented P7 teacher, Helen Calabria. Our first port of call was to contact members of Fife Council’s ICT development team, David Imrie and Derek Rolland, who provided technical advice and ensured that we maintained Fife Council’s high standard of internet safety. 

"The medium we were advised to use was Microsoft Sway [a presentation program that is part of Microsoft Office]. It was chosen as it could host short videos safely and the final product could be put up on our Twitter account. As a school, we see Sway as a tool that can be used safely as part of our chosen home-schooling website, Glow, but it’s also a program that can be used outside of the Glow website."

How long did it take to get up and running?

"In the space of two weeks from its original concept, we have set up St Columba’s TV. This has allowed us to develop continuous educational provision across all ages and stages."

What kind of content have you published?

"We have hosted story time (developed by teachers Helen Calabria and Aileen Rodwell), sports challenges (developed by teachers Rebecca Oakenfull and Kris Robb), Stem challenges (developed by learning support teacher Laura Friel), baking challenges (developed by all staff), music (developed by teacher Margaret Quirie and music teacher Fiona Haldane) and finally school assemblies where we continue to celebrate pupil home-learning achievements."

What’s been the most popular content?

We have a wide selection of videos to choose from but have received positive feedback on the following:

  • Mrs Calabria reading Harry Potter has been very popular.
  • The Great St Columba’s Bake Off videos have been enjoyed by our school family.
  • The gardening video has also been well received

"Finally, our links to our parish church are being developed and nurtured with Monsignor Pat, our school priest, leading a Palm Sunday address for our school community, and he intends to follow this up with videos documenting different aspects of Holy Week."

What were your main goals in getting this off the ground? Has it been effective?

"The main goal was to establish a fun and engaging ongoing communication between home and school and to supplement the ongoing daily home-learning activities provided on Glow by individual teachers for their pupils.

"Parent and pupil feedback regarding St Columba’s TV and home learning provided has been very positive. Parents and pupils can comment via Glow or Twitter. There is also a 'Have a look at the wonderful things our pupils have been getting up to' part on St Columba's TV, which has meant we could also share the pupils' good practice. It has also allowed pupils to give each other peer feedback."

Were all teachers comfortable with it? Were you? What would your tips be for getting started?

"It has been a learning curve for our whole school family – pupils, parents, carers and staff (including myself!). We were faced with the huge challenge of establishing home learning in ever-changing and very anxious times but all staff members rose to the challenge and supported each other – using our individual strengths to do so.  

"Our top tips are be ambitious and enthusiastic. The team at St Columba's all have different skills and talents, which have been realised in St Columba's TV."

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for TES Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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