Virtual Visits in Lockdown

I had dozens of school author visits lined up for the spring and summer. Most were cancelled or postponed overnight. As had to happen. Three days after school changes were announced, I had a call from a headteacher I work with a lot.

We’re budgeted to pay you to work with us and we’d like to honour that, he said.

Then a couple of days after that I had another call from a school. Both wanted virtual author visits. I was thrilled. And grateful.

I’ve been doing virtual author visits in schools for a while now. One or two a month. Easy going. Normally, I’ll chat to a classroom full of children for half-an-hour. And I love it. It was a fun addition to my main jobs of writing books and visiting schools.

But now – in world suffering Covid-19 – I had to step things up to another level. I had to use more platforms and be more innovative with what I offered.

Here’s a summary of some of the things I’ve been involved with since making that decision:

Dixons Academy, Bradford. I’ve been working with year five on story modelling, showing them – in a series of twenty-minute videos – how I research, plan, start and edit a story based in their area. Children are feeding back to help direct what happens in subsequent films.

Cotmanhay Junior, Derbyshire. The headteacher and I are co-writing a story in ten parts set on the estate where most of the school’s students come from. One ten-minute read is posted weekly as text and as a short film read by one of the school’s teachers. The story is called This Book is For You and is about a boy who hates reading – at the beginning.

Tabuk School, Saudi Arabia. Tabuk set up a school writing competition with me acting as the judge. The children sent their stories to me via their teacher and I created a twenty-minute awards video announcing the winners giving back constructive criticism  on every story in the competition.

Kirkstall Valley Primary School, Leeds. Fifteen reluctant readers – but football fans – have been given signed copies of one of my books. They’ll read the book by a certain dates, then the head teacher and I will host a Zoom reading group with the children. The children will keep their book.

That’s four direct author-to-school models I’ve been involved with so far.

I’ve also done two Facebook Live sessions open to the public, but joined in by several schools. One on football stories, the other on the Second World War in fiction.

I’ve also written:

A five-part story commemorating the Battle of Britain 80th anniversary with the RAF Museums where I am Children’s Author in Residence. With reading comprehensions for each chapter.

An eight-part Roy of the Rovers How to Write about Football toolkit

And a teacher training/reading group on Zoom.

The above are just some examples of what I can do. But I’d be very happy to work with schools on bespoke ideas for all, or some, of your pupils.

And I know there are many many other authors out there who would like to work with schools in whatever way would work for you.

If you want some ready-to-go resources there are loads of free activities on my website relating to reading and writing sport and history. You can find them here:

My virtual visits page is here: Feel free to get in touch to ask more questions.

Thank you for reading.