The introduction of the new theme for 2020/21 ‘Brave the Present, Rise to the Future’, encapsulates Gateway’s determination to embrace the ‘new normal’ that will be challenging and different to what prevailed in mid-March when schools had to shut down abruptly. Gateway schools did not leave any stone unturned during the period of lockdown and made sure that the students did not miss out on any aspect of school that was important: an excellent teaching and learning programme that led to the school being recognized as a ‘Centre of Excellence’ by none other than Microsoft, an innovative initiative of online examinations, virtual avurudu and vesak celebrations, the online sports programme, the conduct of a soft skills programme, and the formation and conduct of clubs and societies are a few examples.
In preparing for the next phase of ‘back to school’, Gateway has made sure that they address all aspects needed for students to receive the ‘all-round’ education that the school believes in. Therefore, while the online teaching continues, starting from the 6 th of July, the school will commence academic clinics for students to meet their teachers on a ‘one to one’ basis to clarify their doubts, arrange for students to participate in sports skills training and fitness development and take part in a host of co-curricular activities. In making plans, the school has considered the safety of children as their priority but is keen to get the students out of their current comfort zone.
Health, safety and wellbeing of the school community is the top priority at Gateway. With the decision of the Ministry of Education to re-open schools, the school management took swift action to prepare the premises to ensure the safety of the students. Many precautionary measures, in addition to the guidelines recommended by the authorities are being implemented.
Prefects took the responsibility of manufacturing personalized face shields, for the entire school using material of the highest quality provided by the school using the tools available in the Innovation Labs of all Gateway schools. Easily accessible multi-sized hand-washing stations have been placed at convenient locations. Recommended equipment and sanitizing agents are assigned to a dedicated in-house team, to facilitate decontamination of the premises periodically.
Strict screening procedures at the entrance which include a detailed movement register, temperature scanning and sanitizing processes are being followed. Adherence to social distancing practices is mandatory for every student and member of staff. The Management will continue constructive engagement with the public health authorities to ensure a safe and healthy environment for the school community.
Re-imagining Education and moving to a hybrid model
Plans are underway at Gateway College to assist students to adjust to the new normal with a healthy mix of traditional teaching and online learning. The need for a new approach to learning has never been more evident and Gateway hopes to adopt a hybrid approach that builds on the successes of flipped, blended, remote, distance and online learning to intentionally create learner-centered experiences that are profoundly personalized, relevant and engaging.
The AL students took part in a 3 full day programme geared to prepare them to succeed in life and the workplace. The programme was designed to provide students with insights to the right Values, Skills, Attitudes and Knowledge. A panel of Sri Lankan and overseas speakers joined over 700 students from across four Gateway Campuses via live broadcasts. Similarly, large scale meetings have been conducted with students, staff and even parents where the level of interaction has exceeded expectation: The successes of the past months prove that the school is ready for the next step.
Some important changes made by the school include a BYOD policy for the seniors, which will enable students to work more efficiently while in school or at home. Gateway College has signed up with Hewlett-Packard (HP) in order to facilitate the purchase of necessary devices for all seniors. This will ensure that all senior students are able to interact online and benefit from an uninterrupted learning experience. All Gateway campuses are also equipped with state-of-the-art IT labs. Students and teachers also have access to a range of digital devices such as tabs and smartboards. Furthermore, Gateway College is fully Wi-Fi enabled allowing students to access their lessons as well as research material at any time. The school has also linked with Dialog in order to make certain that students can have continuous connectivity even at home. Students were offered a very attractive data package where the school paid for connectivity.
Professional Development for Teachers
Apart from this, Gateway College is also focused on the professional development of all members of staff, which will benefit all students from Play Group to Advanced Level. With the on-going experience of being a Microsoft Showcase School, the school aims to have all teachers reach the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIE Expert) status and use the advanced technological tools that have been made available to the schools. The teachers of Gateway College are aware of the changes that must take place when teaching online: changes from the point of planning a lesson all the way to its execution. Microsoft believes that the innovative digital teaching methods that the Gateway teachers use will prove to be great case studies to the entire teaching community in Sri Lanka.