With the ever-changing school landscape, I’m trying to adapt my usual offerings to schools to fit in with whatever a new system might need. For the autumn term at least, I will be offering virtual school visits. Over the next couple of weeks, I am working with some amazing schools to trial several different workshop and technology provisions. This way, I can be sure that I can still offer what I believe to be a valuable and worthwhile experience for children and schools that provides the same value for your budget.
My workshops based on my choose-your-own-path book have been very popular in the past but they require a degree of interaction and team working that isn’t possible virtually or while children are still required to socially distance. For these reasons, I won’t be offering these sessions virtually as I don’t believe they will offer the same value.
I’ve put together the following FAQ to answer what I think will be the most common questions. Every school will have different requirements and provision at the moment so, if you are interested, please get in touch via [email protected] and we can discuss your specific situation.
How much will the virtual visits cost?
This is an important question that will depend slightly on exactly what you are looking for. As there would be no travel, there is a possibility to discuss shorter sessions at a reduced rate. Please drop me an email to discuss, I’m confident we can work something out for most situations.
What sessions can you offer?
Based on the virtual sessions I’m running with my trial schools, I am able to offer the following sessions:
Going from “can’t get started” to “can’t wait to start”.
My most popular workshop. This session takes children through the process of using story structures and ideas that they know to create new and interesting ideas for narrative fiction. There is no prior learning or knowledge needed and only note-taking equipment is required for the session.
Building a poem about my situation.
This workshop has good PHSE links. Children will investigate several of my poems from Tig You’re It! and use them to create their own poem based on the world around them. Using my poem “Remember”, children can think about the things they need to remember in the current global situation; whether they are practical things such as washing hands, or more emotional ideas such as looking after their own mental health or considering the impact on other people.
Please note that I am currently offering workshops for KS2 and KS3 children. I don’t feel they would work well enough with KS1 to give you any benefit. However, as part of a day booking, I am happy to do a QnA session with KS1 and discuss being a writer and books in general.
We have multiple bubbles in each year group.
Who knows if children will still be in bubbles by September? If they are, one of the benefits of doing this virtually is that multiple bubbles can join together in a single session. After years as a teacher, I try hard to pitch the sessions to each year group, so it works best if the bubbles are kept similar.
What technology will we need?
Ideally, a whiteboard or projector and a computer with a webcam for each bubble. There is no need for every child to have their own device (though this is fine if they do). Don’t forget to check your school policy for the children appearing on the webcam. You may need to get permission in advance of the event.
Which meeting service do you use?
I can work with all of the major players. My preference is for Google Meets or Microsoft Teams as most schools already use one or the other and I know that they work well. Zoom is also fine but tends to be used less by schools. If you have something else that you normally work with, let me know and we can work with that. Whichever service we use, please check with your system admins that children and teachers can access the service beforehand.
Can children join from home?
Since we don’t know whether every child will be back in school come September, we need to think about all possibilities. Whether they can join on their own device from home will come down to your own school’s policy. I am more than happy for them to join us but all safeguarding considerations around this must be taken by the school beforehand.
Can we record the session for teachers/pupils who aren’t at school?
This is an alternative if your school doesn’t want children joining from home. I have no issue with you recording the sessions and uploading them to secure areas for your pupils and staff only. This might be Google Classrooms or similar. Sessions must not be uploaded to YouTube or other social media.
Are there any safeguarding issues with virtual visits?
One of the reasons I prefer Google Meets or Microsoft Teams is that the meeting organiser can fully control who can see what. With the correct setup, all of the services should be safe if used within a classroom environment.
Whichever technology we decide to use, the school will be responsible for setting up the meeting (and any costs, such as Zoom membership) and inviting me to join. This way, you can control how the meeting runs and ensure it is set up in line with your own safeguarding policies.
It will be the school’s responsibility to check that all permission is in place to allow the meeting to happen.
If your school has any particular safeguarding concerns, please do get in touch to discuss them. I was a teacher for many years and understand how important it is to ensure these things are fully considered.
What about international schools?
Get in touch! I would love to work with more schools around the world. We can figure out the time difference and work out a schedule that works.
Will children still be able to buy signed copies of your books?
Yes. I am working on adapting my online shop so that parents can order books through my website. I can then send these over to the school for you to hand out.
I am still offering my £1-per-book cashback incentive to help schools fund the visit. Depending on shipping costs and number of books ordered, I may have to charge a small shipping fee to get the books to you, but we can discuss that as part of the booking arrangements.
Is there any work we can do prior to a visit?
As always, if the children are familiar with my books, it’s helpful as they tend to have more questions. If your school doesn’t have the budget to buy any copies in, have a look through my website with the children to get a feel for them. You can even play the beginning of The Magic Knight.
Alternatively, you can order guided sets at a discount and download the reading comprehension and writing plans I’ve written for The Halloween Parade on my school visit page.
What happens to my booking if schools are open for visitors by September?
We will proceed as planned. You will have the option to turn it into a physical visit if you prefer (there will be an extra charge in line with my original booking fees to cover travel expenses), but all virtual bookings will be honoured to their original requirements.
Will you be offering virtual staff CPD?
I will indeed. I am working on a new CPD offering that covers writing model texts for the classroom. It follows similar lines to the class workshops but with lots of extra information about pitching texts at the correct level and tips for saving time and reducing workload along the way.
Has anybody said anything nice about you?
How nice of you to ask! Why yes, they have!
“The kids were really enthused and there are lots of great ideas coming out of them. The staff also said it was a great development opportunity for them.” – Stafford Leys Primary School (Year 6)
“Thanks again from the English Dept to [Matt Beighton] who led a creative writing session for a Y7 group. It was a fun session, exploring creating realistic characters and devising exciting plots. Students will use ideas from the session to write up their own story this week!” – Up Holland High School (Year 7)
“A big thank you to [Matt Beighton] for our wonderful ‘virtual visit’ for our Year 6 bubbles this afternoon! They loved learning more about what it’s like to be an author and planning their own story based on their favourite genres – we can’t wait to start writing next week!” – St. Joseph’s Primary School (Year 6)
“A thoroughly enjoyable day for all our students. Many thanks.”
– All Saints, Lessingham (Years 3 – 11)
“An excellent day was had by all! Motivational in promoting a love for reading and that all have the potential to be writers. Thank you!”
– Countesthorpe Leyland Community College (Years 7-10)
“The children thoroughly enjoyed the sessions which were fun, creative and engaging. The assemblies were a great way to raise the profile of reading and boost reading enjoyment. An excellent day which was very fun and enjoyable. The pupils really enjoyed the workshops as they were a really creative way for them to write their own stories and work as a team.”
– Martinshaw Primary School (EYFS to Year 6)
“When Matt came into my school to talk to year 4 and 5, the children had a great time. Matt read parts of his books to the children and throughout him reading, the children were engaged at all times. The children came up with some great questions to ask Matt about his books.
Matt did some extra work with the year 5s by supporting them to create their own stories. The children engaged with Matt and came up with some great ideas based on his books. Matt was wonderful with the children and supported them well. He was very entertaining and the children were very excited about writing and couldn’t wait to write more!
I would not hesitate to have Matt back to discuss his new books with the children.”
– Stokes Wood Primary School (Key Stage 2)