Earlier this month the Prime Minister announced that Sir Kevan Collins would be the “education recovery commissioner” to oversee how England’s schools can catch up following the disruption of the pandemic. Catching up on any gaps in education as a result of lockdown has been a question at the forefront of every parent and educator’s mind over the past 12 months, but while Sir Collins thinks about that on a national scale, what can be done for individual UK students?
Boris Johnson has said “no child will be left behind” as a result of the pandemic. It’s an admirable sentiment, but one that’s arguably impossible to truly measure. We all acknowledge that every child is different and responds to different learning environments and processes, whilst also having variable challenges and opportunities dependent on demographic.
Last year it was estimated that children were as much as three months behind where they would normally be as a result of lockdown. Measures have been taken to address social inequalities due to a lack of access to computers at home, but irrespective of the available tools, some people acclimatise to the learning from home environment better than others.
Identifying if a child has fallen behind at school
In our experience, there is no single way to help a student to catch up in areas of their education that they have found challenging or where they may have missed key pieces of information.
Perhaps the most crucial thing is identifying where the shortfall is. A child might have managed to keep up well in one area of study, but struggle in another. Informal testing is one way to see if a child has kept up or regressed in their schoolwork. This can be hard to achieve while they’re still at home, but communicating with their teachers will help significantly.
There can also be some behavioural signs that indicate a child is struggling. Are they bad tempered? Are they having trouble eating or sleeping? Do school projects and tasks take them an excessive amount of time? Parents will have key insights as to whether their child is behaving differently to the way they do normally.
Helping children to catch up on their education
Engagement and relevance: We all learn better when it’s something we’re interested in or something we can see a purpose to. At CamVision, we find that engagement and relevance are central to helping students to learn. For example, when we tutor UK students in second languages, we move quickly into real conversations. We might talk about things that they are passionate about or things they discuss with friends. Alternatively, when we tutor students in a subject like with physics, we might talk about interesting real-world applications, or aspects the students find interesting. The goal is to show how learning, even when it’s hard, has a tangible benefit.
Mental health: There has been a lot of discussion around mental health in recent months, and this in itself can affect a child’s learning. It may not be that they struggle with the academic material itself, but that they are feeling too stressed, worried or overwhelmed to really focus on it. We have written before about some of the ways we can help children handle anxiety at the moment, and while there’s no blanket solution considering this may help to address a barrier to their capacity to learn.
Different ways of learning: Some children are visual learners, others learn better through sound or interaction. Try experimenting with different learning approaches, programmes, games or introducing cross curricular activities that combine something a child finds challenging with something they have a natural affinity for. You may also consider enlisting the support of a tutor who has insights into different approaches to education. They are all ways of helping them to feel motivated and help them to absorb information.
Time with a tutor: Sometimes catching up is simply a question of needing extra time on a subject with someone who has the space to give you one-to-one attention. A tutor can be a great way of giving a child a calm and focused environment to go over material from school, perhaps explain it in a way that might resonate better, explain key points or break the subject down to make it easier to absorb. Of course, at the moment, many peoples’ budgets are stretched and paying for a tutor is not realistic. However, it might be worth speaking to the child’s school to see if they have advice. Tutors, like most things now, are available for online study via video call and online classrooms, so it doesn’t have to wait for social distancing rules to subside.
If you are a parent looking to help your child get the most out of their secondary school education, contact us to talk about coaching and mentoring.