Innovative students turn teacher in lockdown with new Instagram platform HomePal

Withington Girls' School deputy head girl Shamae Griffin. Photo: WGS

Withington Girls' School deputy head girl Shamae Griffin. Photo: WGS - Credit: Archant

Shamae Griffin, 18, is a Withington Girls’ School Class of 2020 leaver and one of this year’s deputy head girls. Along with eight other seniors from Withington, Manchester High School for Girls, and The Manchester Grammar School, she has dedicated her time during the Covid-19 crisis to working on HomePal, an Instagram-based home-learning resource offering educational enrichment for younger pupils

Experiencing lockdown as a school-leaver is something that is unlikely to be repeated anytime soon.

I bid farewell to my home-away-from-home, Withington Girls’ School, after seven years, with mixed feelings – sadness, relief, and disappointment at exams cancellations. Ready to embark on my next phase in life, but feeling bereft of a chance to say goodbye and thank you to teachers and friends.

Yet there are positives in this unfamiliar situation. As schools closed, sixth-formers from Withington, Manchester High School for Girls and Manchester Grammar School met to reminisce on shared memories and say our goodbyes. We were disappointed that the leavers’ ball, organised annually as a joint event, would not go ahead but we agreed that collaborating instead on a final project would be a great end to our school careers.

Recognising that some schoolchildren may appreciate extra educational resources to support their learning, we decided to pool our expertise to create HomePal, an online home-schooling platform. The three schools’ colours and a graduation cap with house icon as our logo symbolise our collaboration and embody HomePal: fun, short lessons that don’t feel like an obligation.

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We each selected our favourite subjects, such as Chinese, Spanish and history, along with mindfulness – one of the most popular so far – included to help with young people’s mental health during lockdown. HomePal benefits both the user and the team, providing structure and planning skills, as well as consolidating and expanding understanding of our chosen fields.

At Withington, I learnt the importance of supporting others, particularly when you have the time, means and knowledge to do so. That is why HomePal is such an amazing group achievement, enabling us to help those struggling to access lessons under lockdown. Initially we targeted key stage three pupils. However, as HomePal evolved as a social media-based account open to all, a wide variety of ages and geographical areas joined us, some from as far away as America. For me, the biggest success has been enriching the lives of others by sharing what we have learnt over the past few years.

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Lockdown has been both enabling and restricting – restricting in that we have been unable to travel and see friends and family, yet enabling in that it has allowed me to explore different resources and come together with others in the same position.

Without this time with only a few things on our to-do lists, HomePal would never have happened. I would recommend getting involved in group projects: beneficial for both creators and users, they provide stability in what can be very uncertain circumstances.

Follow HomePal on Instagram here