There’s more to life in RGS’s virtual world

October 2, 2020

The Royal Grammar School Newcastle’s headmaster, Geoffrey Stanford, explains how one of the region’s oldest learning institutions has responded to the pandemic

As the oldest school in Newcastle, The Royal Grammar School (RGS) is steeped in history, providing academic excellence to its students for almost 500 years.

Renowned for consistently stellar results, which places the school at the top of the North East’s independent schools’ league table, RGS is a place where aspirations are high and opportunities are endless. Students go on to study highly selective courses at the most sought-after universities, but also leave the school realising that life outside the classroom has been equally fulfilling.

RGS was last mandated to close by the Government in 1939 when our school in Eskdale Terrace became the North East regional war room during World War II.

The lockdown in 2020 presented tremendous challenges but we quickly transformed our model of teaching, so that we now have the ability to deliver our full curriculum virtually.

We very quickly developed our digital competencies and taught the full curriculum through Microsoft Teams, ensuring the benefits of personalised and live teaching, as well as essential peer to peer interaction, albeit in a virtual environment.

It’s been a steep learning curve but, equally, our outstanding teachers did what they do best; they engaged, inspired, encouraged and challenged our students – albeit through the medium of a screen.

Our brilliant students have responded with their typical enthusiasm and insatiable hunger to learn; their positive attitude exemplifies the culture at RGS.

Having built technological expertise, the next stage in this transformation is to develop outstanding teaching, even if we have some students learning from home, while others are learning in school. In this new uncertain world, I am sure that all schools will need to adapt to this inevitable scenario, and we’ve worked hard to keep ahead in such a fast-changing environment.

We are also proactively sharing our learnings with our state school partners, an act that is consistent with our aim to raise aspiration and attainment across our whole region.

In a year like no other, a number of historic traditions at RGS have been transformed. The ‘Class of 2020’ experienced a virtual graduation, while there has been remote speech day, prize- giving, sports award celebrations and online parent conferences.

Less conventionally, there has also been a virtual kitchen disco, remote House competitions and highly creative online sports challenges, not to mention the most inspiring philanthropic efforts to support our great region and – closer to home – our bursary students in severe hardship.

The school has clearly worked hard to ensure that all students continue to benefit from the rich experience of school, and all that an education at RGS has to offer.

Looking ahead, RGS is focussed on giving our students continuity, consistency, a full curriculum and broad extra-curricular opportunities. Our students will undoubtedly be the generation of the pandemic, but I am determined they will also realise the rich benefits of a revolution in virtual learning.

The Royal Grammar School
The Royal Grammar School Newcastle is holding its first ever Virtual Open Day on Saturday, November 14, where the school will showcase its digital expertise to demonstrate that there really is more to life at the RGS. Register at www.rgs.newcastle.sch.uk or email admissions@rgs.newcastle.sch.uk for more information.

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