AS Covid-19 erases the line between work and home, educators across the country are working hard to smooth the transition of teaching and learning remotely.

One such teacher is Catherine Baylis, from Hartford, who teaches English from Year 7 to 11, across all abilities.

A teacher for 12 years, Catherine has worked at St Edmund Arrowsmith Catholic High School in Wigan since qualifying.

More than three weeks since schools were told to close their doors to all but key workers’ children, she describes what has become the new normality in her profession, explaining some of the difficulties but also pleasant surprises she’s experienced along the way.

Pre-pandemic, Catherine’s day would start at 5.40am to ensure she’s in school in good time to prepare for the day.

“I am a part-time teacher and have a fantastic job-share partner,” she says.

“Our school day commences with form time where we participate in collective worship, take registers and ensure students’ planners and admin tasks are up to date. Form is also an opportunity to spend time helping the students in any pastoral related matters.

“I then would typically have four or five lessons throughout the day teaching topics ranging from Shakespeare to review writing, studying a whole class novel to citizenship related work.”

“After school, if there are no staff meetings, revision lessons or continual professional development training sessions, I normally spend an hour or so marking and lesson preparation before driving back to Cheshire to collect my two children from school.”

Catherine says she’s still following her school timetable as far as possible in order to keep in touch with and support her pupils. Before her school closed, her department prepared home learning booklets for each year group and Catherine sets daily or weekly work. She’s also available online if any students have a query and provides timely feedback.

“Variety is key to keeping pupils engaged though,” she says. “We are suggesting that students mix up the day a little by watching a film in French or Spanish, cooking a dish or baking a cake or taking an online PE lesson.”

Like many teachers and parents, Catherine has found the transition tough.

“My most challenging day so far was the last day in school when we said, ‘see you soon’ to the students,” she recalls.

“This was especially hard for our Year 11 students whose time at St Edmund Arrowsmith had ended abruptly. Students were looking to us for the answers and we didn’t always have them.

“On a personal level, as a parent of two primary school children, it is difficult juggling the needs of my children alongside my pupils. Both are so important to me and they all need support during this challenging time. It has also been very difficult not being able to see friends and family, especially those who are self-isolating and live alone.”

Catherine says she was pleasantly surprised by the resilience of the children and how quickly colleagues were able to put together work to support the pupils over the coming weeks.

“The announcement came on the Wednesday and we only had until the Friday to ensure everything was in place; but we did it,” she says.

“My colleagues working from home are following a similar routine to mine. We are also preparing future work as we do not know how long this situation will go on for.

“Teachers in school have adapted the school day. Students are taking part in a physical activity each day by doing the Joe Wicks workout in the hall. We have allowed quiet time for reading in the library and some staff have been very creative on the days they have been in school creating treasure hunts and other fun activities to keep everyone going during these difficult times.

Despite the obvious challenges of this difficult period, Catherine has also found plenty of positives.

“I think we can all say that this experience has reminded us to appreciate life, and the small things around us, a little more,” she says.

“I have also been reminded how incredibly proud I am of our school community. Most pupils have made a fantastic start to working from home on a computer or mobile device and we have had a very positive response from parents.

“The support from everyone across the school has reminded us that we will get through this major health crisis by remaining united in our very special school community.”