Head of Art on teaching during lockdown
November 24, 2021

Head of Art Mark Sherrington reflected on the experiences teaching during lockdown for the latest edition of the Rydal Penrhos Society newsletter.

Teaching online during lockdown was a challenge for Head of Art Mark Sherrington and Suzy Morris. The idea of teaching a practical subject from the comfort of their own homes was an obvious challenge, but one they rose to extremely well as part of Rydal Penrhos’ outstanding provision during such a challenging time.

For the latest edition of the Rydal Penrhos Society newsletter, Mr Sherrington explained in detail the experiences gained and the incredible commitment displayed by pupils to ensure progression remained on course.

“We managed to get through it by coming up with creative ideas or projects which we delivered from home every week but at times we did feel a bit like a combination of Tony Hart and a ‘YouTuber!’

One of the most surprising things about that period was how the GCSE and A Level pupils in most cases created more work. Not only were they obviously enjoying time away from the screen making Art but the work was also more personal and considered.

The time doing Art quickly had become a time of solace and escape from their situation.

The online lessons became a supportive, self-help group where each week one of us would share our artwork online and the rest of the group would give feedback.

This form of teaching reminded me of being back at Art school in seminars or ‘group crit’ sessions where we would all chip in and discuss each other’s work. The result of this more mature approach to criticism and peer assessment was that the pupils would respond and act upon the advice.

Even the A Level photographers seemed to be motivated to make stronger images and relished the chance to visit different locations.

It was a period that reminded me too of the advice given to me on my Teacher Training when, a very experienced and gifted Art lecturer had said to me, that most of Art teaching could be summed up in one phrase…

“Spend longer on it.”

And that is what the pupils were doing and with tremendous results.

The exhibition at the end of the year was not only a success but perhaps, more importantly, it looked as strong and as thorough as any year.

It was an important lesson to have learnt from the whole period of COVID-19. I needed to make time in the school year for more group assessment, peer assessment and time for discussion and reflection about the work.

Most of making Art is after all reacting to what you have just done – it is recognising that one particular part, or an area, is working better than another and trying to respond to the work and make the work better.

The lockdown online teaching period had brought that into very strong focus and demonstrated how imperative it is to Art education.

I felt that in my busy school term I had perhaps lost sight of that a little. So the lockdown was a learning experience for everybody in that sense.”

We are indebted to Mr Sherrington and all our exceptional teaching staff at Rydal Penrhos for their efforts during this period. Their remarkable commitment enabled pupils young and old to hit the ground running during the autumn term once they were permitted to resume face-to-face learning.

You can read the full feature with Mr Sherrington here.


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