Dave Giles is an English teacher at Chase High School in Westcliff. He decided to set up his own “online school” for his son, friends’ children and nieces and nephews during the coronavirus outbreak.

He is currently teaching people from seven to 70-years-old - most have the surname Giles. Here the former Echo head of content offers his advice on home education.

We are living through unprecedented times and no one has done this before, so the first thing is to remind yourself that no one has all the answers. Schools are doing their best and that’s all you can do at home.

Lots of teachers across the country have been saying that a child’s health and wellbeing comes before any academic work. But this suggests somehow that a child’s mental health will suffer as a result of school work and I think this is wrong.

I treat the students at Chase the same way I treat my son. I set them work in the morning and they complete it and send it back to me by the evening. Read, think, write. That’s what I’m asking them to do and the way they have responded has been incredible. We know that some people speak unkindly about Chase and we know they are wrong. Students of mine are completing essays about the portrayal of Greek love in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet or understanding feminist theory in relation to Inspector Calls. They’re doing all this at home with just a phone and their resilience. I’m so proud of our students at Chase, but I think this a crucial part of the day and gives them and me structure and purpose in uncertain times.

At home, my son and I set up a timetable to complete. It involves his work from school, some PE, English and maths (we’re also trying to learn Greek). I understand this might not be possible for everyone, but we’ve loved it. Some days we complete everything, some days we don’t.

As long as he is reading, thinking and writing, I’m happy. Plan, but don’t fret. To me, reading is key. If you can get good at reading any novel, your child will get good at reading a science textbook, history source or mathematics explanation. To get good at reading is to get good at learning - and that is why literacy is a focus at Chase.

After seeing some parents worried about teaching their children, I wanted to help. I’ve been meaning to read the Narnia books for ages with Henry, so I took the opportunity to read and plan a series of lessons on them. It has brought my family together as we’ve all read the books together and discussed ideas as diverse as religious allegory, Donald Trump and Plato’s Atlantis.

While we’ve been doing this, we’ve kept up with Henry’s schoolwork. His school has been brilliant, but there has been a lot of information from a lot of sources. I don’t panic if he doesn’t get it all done. I don’t worry if I can’t find something or that something seems confusing.

A fantastic resource that his teachers have set is called www.pobble365.com It is useful for encouraging creative writing and would be as beneficial for my Year 11 students as it is for Henry in Year 3. But when he was doing it, I could tell he was getting distracted. That’s fair enough, this is all new to him. So I sat with him and did the creative writing. It made a huge difference - sometimes just modelling what you want to see your kids do, will help.

I’m aware that everyone’s circumstances are different. If you’re a single parent who’s trying to work from home, then it’s not possible to do some creative writing with your child. That’s ok - but if you do have time - why not? And if you are working, just sitting with your child and modelling concentration will help.

But how do you get children to do something they might not want to? In my training year, I was told to ask a child to do something, the way you would ask for something in a shop - politely but with a certainty of expectation that you will get what you ask for. I don’t have to shout, belittle or threaten a shop worker if I ask for some tomatoes, I just say please and they oblige; teaching is really no different.

And while I desperately miss the students at Chase, I’m trying to make the most of the time I have at home with my family - as someone said to me the other day - we’re not stuck at home, we’re safe at home.

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