There has been much written and said about the need to prioritise the meeting of pupils’ social, emotional and other non-academic needs when schools re-open.
This is, of course, key to setting up pupils for their future success and is reinforced by the Department for Education in their recent guidance which suggests that schools should consider their pupils’ mental health and wellbeing and identify any pupil who may need additional support so they are ready to learn.
Indeed, if we want great learning, we need children who are secure and happy in themselves and their relationships.
- Our recent blog – Back to School: How Can We Best Support Children? – has some useful information and advice on supporting children as they return to school.
- And we have just published some free podcasts too: Helping Children to Deal With Anxiety, Loss and Bereavement to help with specific issues that may well arise.
- Also we are happy to share the local authority C19 and Wellbeing poster summarising the support and services available to children and young people.
The Impact of Covid On Learning
We should not underestimate the impact and the challenges presented by the current Covid situation on both pupils and staff.
We also cannot ignore the need to plan for keeping pupils on track in their learning and for providing opportunities for pupils to make accelerated progress; particularly those pupils who need a helping hand or who are amongst our most vulnerable learners.
So do we view the experience of home learning as a waste of time after which we must re-do everything next year?
Or should we attempt to build on prior learning and to fill the gaps that may have arisen through the unprecedented loss of much of the 2019/20 academic year?
In their guidance, DfE suggests that schools should assess where pupils are in their learning and agree what adjustments may be needed to the school curriculum (i.e. making best use of great AfL strategies, prioritising the curriculum etc).
Here are some of the ideas suggested by both the DFE and other schools.
Some schools plan for pupils to stay with the same teacher into the next school year (‘looping’) thus making the most of, and building on, existing knowledge and relationships in the context of a new academic year and maintaining high expectations.
2. Catch Up Sessions
Many schools, particularly for mathematics, make use of daily ‘catch up’ sessions linked to current teaching and learning and focus on the areas where pupils would most benefit from additional practice or feedback either individually or in a small group situation.
The government recently (June) announced that it will spend £1 billion on an education “catch-up plan”. This plan suggests several possible actions including:
3. Smaller Group Tuition
Schools are adept at identifying pupils who may need additional support e.g. so they are ready to learn, or who need a more focused approach to learning.
This may be a curriculum support mechanism, inside or outside the classroom, adding value to the work of the class teacher and provided by the teacher or teaching assistant.
Where this takes place in addition, outside the classroom, it should be time-scaled and considerate of the impact on the experience of other curriculum areas i.e. through a rolling programme of lessons missed.
4. Investment in CPD to Support Greater Teaching
Quality of teaching is the single most important driver of pupil attainment and a range of other positive outcomes, and can be maximised through the effective deployment and development of teachers and teaching assistants. (EEF, 2019)
The impact of CPD is greater when it is thought of as a process, not a ‘one-off’ event and where it is clearly linked to a school improvement plan, monitored and evaluated.
5. Literacy and Numeracy Interventions
Time-scaled numeracy and literacy interventions could provide part of the solution, whilst combining the DFE’s guidance into one:
- Smaller Group Tuition
- CPD For Teachers
- Catch Up Sessions
This approach provides teachers and/or teaching assistants with subject knowledge and pedagogical understanding which, after an initial pupil diagnostic assessment, enables them to adapt lessons to best meet the needs of learners.
Interventions such as these are designed, through careful planning and implementation, to ensure a whole school approach to intervention.
They are linked closely to the school improvement plan, which ensures that they impact not only on the carefully selected target group/s but also on classroom practice and policy.
The relationship between TA, teacher and pupils, facilitated by the identification of a link or lead teacher is important and ensures any intervention is prioritised and focused.
Pupils who are furthest behind are likely to need time scaled, “structured interventions” which should be validated by the use of pre and post standardised assessment.
Mathematics or Reading Interventions at Services For Education
At Services For Education, we work with Edge Hill University and Oxford University Press to provide a variety of different Maths and English interventions, including the FirstClass@Number Programme; the positive impact of which has been evidenced by EEF.
We know that great teaching is “the most important lever schools have to improve outcomes for their pupils” and the guidance clearly confirms the importance of high-quality professional development in the year ahead, specifically mentioning interventions.
Every school will have different requirements for next year, and no one approach is going to work for them all.
Informed by the research, Senior Leaders will be in a strong position to know how to make sure professional development and intervention is effective, reliable and provides the necessary support for those who need it most.
No-one can say what the next school year is going to be like but we need to prepare as best we can, possibly through use of a hybrid pedagogy which continues to include some distance learning alongside classroom learning.
A summary finding from the EEF report, ‘The impact of school closures on the attainment gap’ states that:
‘Pupils can learn through remote teaching. However, ensuring the elements of effective teaching are present – for example through clear explanations, scaffolding and feedback – is more important than how or when lessons or support are provided’.
The DfE guidance (2 July) on how it expects schools to operate in this new context., is clear:
- Teach an ambitious and broad curriculum in all subjects from the start of the autumn term, but make use of existing flexibilities to create time to cover the most important missed content.
- Aim to return to the school’s normal curriculum in all subjects by summer term 2021
- Plan on the basis of the educational needs of pupils
- Develop remote education so that it is integrated into school curriculum planning
If you would like further support with any of these, we provide CPD, training courses and consultancy across all subjects – you can browse our offer here or please feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
You may also be interested in our other blogs for schools:
- Back to School: How Can We Best Support Children?
- Making Learning Stick
- Soundtots – a Musical Intervention
We hope you found this blog interesting and are keeping well during this time.
About the Author – Denise Harris – Adviser, Services For Education
Denise has 25 years’ experience as a qualified teacher (B.Ed, Hons) working in schools and an Education Action Zone. She became a local authority primary consultant in 2003 with a focus on mathematics and assessment. In this role she gained accreditation as an Every Child Counts (ECC) Teacher leader and was awarded an MA in Early Mathematics from Edge Hill University.
She has also successfully completed the NCETM Primary Professional Development Lead Support Programme gaining recognition as being accredited and up-to-date on current thinking on national mathematics priorities.
The focus of her current role is the management and delivery of the statutory assessment contract for moderation and monitoring on behalf of Birmingham LA. Through this role, and as an active member of AAIA, she works closely with other moderation managers both locally and nationally.