Lockdown learning: How other GCSE and A-level students are managing online study

student working on laptop at bedroom desk

Wondering how much support other students have been getting from their schools? Here’s what three TSR members’ typical schooldays have looked like since schools closed down and exams were cancelled because of coronavirus

Across the country, schools have been coping very differently with the coronavirus lockdown – some students have been getting online classes and plenty of resources from their schools, while others have been left to manage their own studying.

We’ve spoken to three TSR members in Year 10, Year 12 and Year 13, to find out what their schools are offering, how they feel about it and what a typical schoolday will involve for them.

TSR member Ellaswords is in Year 10 and is taking GCSEs including English, Maths, Geography and Spanish.

What kind of support has your school given you during lockdown?

The support that my school is offering includes having an open email ‘email if you need anything’. It isn’t much, but nine times out of ten, my teachers get back to me pretty quickly with advice that helps me continue working.

I’ve had one Zoom call with one of my teachers, it was quite unusual, but not a disaster, so I imagine that they will continue.

Also, my teachers have been increasingly using voice notes to go along with the lessons. For example, one teacher does a voiceover of the entire lesson and explains each PowerPoint slide and what she wants doing for it. Another occasionally attaches additional files of her completing a question to show how she would do it and how they want it set out.

How to keep up with your A-level and GCSE studies while schools are closed

Do you feel like you’re getting as much out of the online support as you would from face-to-face lessons?

I feel as though the support being given right now, for some subjects, is not as helpful as being in face-to-face lessons is, but for others, it’s just right. For me, there are some subjects that I find easier to complete by being sat with somebody to ask questions to help me get a greater depth of understanding. Without this, I am struggling a little as there is nobody to shout to for help.

For others, sometimes I just need to physically see the teacher do something to make it click in my brain.

But for other subjects, perhaps those that aren’t my strongest, the support given is just right because now I can focus on fully understanding the subject rather than brushing over it with limited understanding.

student doing homework

A typical schoolday for Ellaswords

7am: I wake up, refreshed and ready for a new day.

8am: I check up on my island on Animal Crossing New Horizons.

9am:  I check the apps that my teachers upload work to (Google Classroom and Showbie) and see what work I have been tasked with for the day. Then, I choose which subject seems nicer and begin my day working through the set tasks for that subject.

10am: I take a break from school work and participate in a 30 minute HIIT session hosted by my mum’s gym – they’re honestly exhausting! Some of the instructors are brutal and end up working us really really hard.

10.30am: I take a 30 minute break from work. In this time I check social media and play games on my phone.

11am: I resume with my work. I pretty much work solidly throughout the day until I have completed all the work required of me for that day. I take ten minute breaks to check TSR, social media or to reply to any messages / emails I received whilst working. 

12.30pm: I have lunch.

1pm: I continue working until completion. Continuing with the rough schedule of half a hour’s work, 10 minute’s break although sometimes that varies slightly.

3pm: Most days I complete my work by 3pm, although sometimes time can drag onto near 4/5pm depending on how frequently I get distracted by other things or how heavy the day’s workload is. If the weather is nice, I then go out into the back garden and either colour in some colouring sheets or blow up the airtrack and practice some gymnastics on that. 

Anonymousamie is in Year 12, and is taking A-levels in Drama and Theatre Studies, History and Sociology

What kind of support has your school given you during lockdown?

My teachers have provided plenty of support. They upload work on an app called ClassCharts on the day we would usually have them according to our timetable (eg read pages 110-15 of the textbook then plan this 20 marker). They always end the assignment by saying that they’re more than happy for us to email them if we’re stuck.

Yesterday we started using Teams, but we’ve only had one call so far. If you are struggling with anything in terms of mental health, you can also email a support teacher who checks in weekly.

student doing homework

Do you feel like you’re getting as much out of the online support as you would from face-to-face lessons?

I found that the online video chat yesterday was really useful because my teacher got straight into the lesson, paused for us to make notes and answered any questions from myself or my classmates. Usually, in Drama we would do a warm up which would take up 30 minutes of the lesson, so it was useful jumping straight into it and I felt a lot more confident afterwards.

A typical schoolday for Anonymousamie

7.45am: Wake up and have breakfast and/or a shower.

9am: Start work. I typically plan the week out on a Sunday evening and my teachers don’t set any work on ClassCharts until midday or so, so I use 9-12 as an opportunity to revise.

1pm: I have an hour’s break for lunch.

2pm: I work until 6pm then have an hour’s break for dinner.

7-9pm: I continue working. Then I watch 30 minutes of YouTube and read a book in bed!

The weekends are similar, except I’m a bit more relaxed and set, I suppose, more chill revision methods eg mindmaps and cue cards. Our school has implied that our mock exams will be going ahead at some point, so I’m partly revising just in case and also revising so I can memorise Year 12 content before learning next year’s.

My experience in lockdown has definitely been challenging at times. I’ve sometimes struggled to keep my motivation up and because everything is so uncertain globally right now, I fear what might become of the future and whether all the effort I put in will be for nothing.

That being said, there are days where I feel a lot more productive than I would do if we were at school, and the amount of support that is being provided from teachers and peers alike has really helped me to push through and to keep going!

Studying in lockdown: Tips to make your study space more effective

Bleepbloop63 is in Year 13 and is taking A-levels in Maths, Further Maths and Chemistry

Why have you decided to keep studying even though you’re in Year 13? 

I’m still working so I can have the satisfaction of saying that I still finished the course. Also, there will be no distinction between the grades my year gets and any other year, so I personally find it’s only right to finish it as that’s what every other year has had to do.

Plus it gives me some structure to my day and something to do. I’m currently hoping to attend Durham University next year studying chemistry.

student doing homework at desk

What kind of support has your school given you during lockdown?

We get an online video every day which is to substitute the lessons we should’ve had but they’re usually only about half an hour long. And for Chemistry, we also have access to three online textbooks.

Do you feel like you’re getting as much out of the online support as you would from face-to-face lessons?

Personally, I don’t feel as supported as I would in class because if I’m struggling with a certain aspect of the lesson, I have to email the teacher and sometimes I’m having to wait a couple of days for a response.

What teachers expect students to be doing while school is cancelled

A typical schoolday for bleepbloop63

9am: Make a coffee and try to straight away get all my sixth form work done.

11am: I’m usually done by now, so I grab some breakfast and just have a break from everything by watching something, at the moment that’s mostly Disney+.

12pm: I try to spend the afternoon doing whatever feels right that day. So some days it’s nothing but others it’ll be reading, baking, doing crafty bits (knitting, embroidery), exercising or listening to podcasts.

Every day I try to do half an hour of German to keep my brain active because I did it at GCSE but I wasn’t able to carry it on to A-level and would like to get better at it.

7pm: Because my mum is a key worker, I don’t get to see her during the day so my evenings are spent with her and helping her with anything she needs.

Learning from home during lockdown has been an experience and some days I haven’t been able to do it and it made me fall behind a bit, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter.

There’s this big idea that every day has to be super productive but in reality just doing what makes you feel good and keeps you safe, mentally and physically, is all that matters.

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