29th August 2020

Announcing the closure of all of our studios on 18th March was the most difficult decision that Miss Diana and I had ever taken whilst at the school. The safety of our students and staff were of course the priority, but we were also aware of the damage that would be done to students by not being able to take classes for a long period of time.

We knew the importance of continuing lessons online, so very quickly we put together a video based on-demand service that would allow students to download and take classes as they wanted. Three days later, the GA Virtual Studio was born. On Saturday 21st March, four members of staff and I spent 12 hours at the school filming, editing and uploading class videos for our students. This included warm ups, exercises and routines. We had to create enough content to fill the equivalent of the two weeks that were left of the Spring Term. Other staff, who were now working from home, also uploaded content remotely and within just a few days we had created hundreds of hours of videos.

The on-demand videos were very well received by students and parents, however I knew, moving into the Summer Term that we would have to offer a full timetable that was live and interactive. This would allow students and teachers to interact with each other as if they were in the same room.

On the morning of Monday 29th April, I got out of bed at around 6am. I hadn’t really slept. This was the morning we were due to begin our live online classes.

We had put together a brand new, daytime timetable with nearly 70 classes a week. We were asking parents to give up large parts of their houses or flats and be subjected to music and singing for hours on end. All while they themselves were trying to work from home. At times, we timetabled three siblings in different classes at the same time. We expected them to get their heads around new technology…who had ever heard of Google Meet or Google Classroom?! We expected students to be focussed and interact with us, sometimes through a tiny phone screen. And we expected them to pay for doing it.

Who on earth was going to do this? The easy option clearly was just to bail out. It would have been devastating for the school and probably would have signalled the end of the Glenlyn story.

At 9.55 I logged on to Google Meet…Intermediate Commercial. Phew, Ollie was already there and we both sat there chatting, wondering what it was all going to be like. Ping! One student joined, then another until eventually there were 24 in the class. I couldn’t believe it! Everyone in and no problems. The rest of the day, the week, the month and the term went equally as well.

But none of this would have happened without the determination, creativity, passion, and loyalty of an incredible staff, enthusiastic students and supportive parents.

Miss Diana and I will forever be grateful for the support that was shown to us and to Glenlyn as a whole during this very challenging time.

As we move forward, we can not wait for students to rejoin us in person, in class.

Ben Briscoe

Leave a Reply