28 May 2020
Sixth Formers from three Manchester schools have joined forces to launch HomePal, an engaging new home-learning programme aimed at helping younger pupils enhance and enrich their education during the current school closures.
Easily accessed as a free resource through Instagram, @HomePal_ (https://www.instagram.com/homepal_/) has been developed by a group of nine volunteers from Withington Girls’ School, The Manchester Grammar School (MGS) and Manchester High School for Girls, with followers able to access short study sessions in Chinese, Geography, German, English, History, Maths, Mindfulness, Science, or Spanish.
Content is primarily targeted at school children in Years 7 to 9, but HomePal’s contributors say their lessons are attracting users of all ages keen to learn a new skill or subject during the Covid-19 lockdown period, regardless of where they are based. Feedback so far has been very positive.
HomePal was established just as schools across the country closed due to Covid-19, when Sixth Formers from Withington, Manchester High and MGS decided to work together on a joint educational project. Several Zoom calls later and HomePal was born. The colours blue, burgundy and yellow run throughout the Instagram post templates and reflect the uniform colours of the three participating schools, while the name HomePal and the logo, featuring a square graduation cap set over a house icon, were selected to represent the concept of home-learning.
Subjects were chosen according to the HomePal team members’ personal preferences and are composed based on Key Stage 3 curriculum guidance and the students’ own knowledge. Though most of the topics on offer have an academic element, they are intended to be fun and interaction is actively encouraged. Mindfulness was included to help support mental health and wellbeing during the lockdown period.
Shamae Griffin, who writes HomePal’s Spanish lessons and is one of four contributors from Withington, said: “It’s a great way to expand horizons, particularly for younger children missing their usual school environment. It’s not meant to replace school remote learning but extends their studies and is also an opportunity to try subjects they may not be taking currently, such as Chinese or Mindfulness. We’re finding that siblings or parents are pointing them in the direction of HomePal, and then deciding to have a go at some of the subjects themselves too!”
HomePal’s volunteers say they enjoy seeing pieces of work returned to them and hearing from users. “I enjoy the HomePal lessons because they have different topics every lesson and even though they are short, you learn a lot from them. They have a lot of key vocabulary in them which I find useful. I especially enjoyed drawing the cells in the Biology lessons and drawing volcanoes in the Geography lesson. Thank you for making the lessons,” wrote one HomePal follower.
All contributors have found the HomePal experience has enriched their own lives during the Coronavirus pandemic. Shamae, who hopes to study Politics and International Relations at university, said: “Withington has given me so many opportunities and now that I’ve come to the end of my WGS journey, it’s great to use the skills gained over the past seven years to help others.”
MGS School Captain Harrison Kaye, who is responsible for HomePal’s Chinese posts and hopes to study the subject at university said: “All of us in the HomePal team recognise the value of education at all levels and so we were extremely concerned at the prospect of an entire generation of children being out of school for an extended period of time. We hope HomePal can keep helping students learning from home and maybe even help develop new areas of interest.”
Manchester High’s Hattie Frew, who hopes to study English Literature at university, has designed HomePal’s Instagram branding and reports that she is enjoying working on the programme’s English lessons. She added: “The content we create provides the educational continuity KS3 students need right now, takes pressure off parents to home-school their children, and is something to enjoy in the process.”