For many students, learning disruption caused by COVID-19 has increased the already existing education equality gap. Here’s our advice on supporting the most at-risk learners in your school in order to bridge the gap

UNESCO estimates that, to date, country-wide school closures due to COVID-19 are affecting over a billion learners world-wide. Consider also the impact of localised school closures and the figure increases by millions.

Whilst we now live in a time whereby technology allows education to continue without physically being present in a classroom, the harsh reality of distance learning for many students has meant further set backs against their more advantaged peers. Students of lower socioeconomic status are naturally more at risk both in terms of learning progression and their social-emotional needs.

Children from families with lower incomes or who are based in rural areas may have lacked access to the essentials of remote learning which allowed other students to continue their studies. Even with a device and an internet connection, the most vulnerable students would have to deal with circumstances which make home learning difficult, sometimes impossible. Students who had weak foundational knowledge before school closures may have regressed in their development due to the lack of routine classroom teaching.

The pandemic has highlighted educational inequalities, including the digital-divide, and has reminded us of the pivotal role that teachers, school leaders and support staff play in the holistic development of children.

As students around the world will begin to transition back to school, educators will likely feel the burden of bridging a bigger classroom gap. However, being faced with a crisis also brings with it the opportunity for educational reform; re-invention of traditional classroom practices, investment in innovative teaching tools and teacher development, and revision of current support systems in place for our most disadvantaged learners.

Leaders now have a chance to go ‘back to the drawing board’ and consider how their school can improve practices to support those most at risk.

Here’s our advice on how best to support those students most in need

1. Take time to understand the new needs of learners

Assess what skills/knowledge may have been (temporarily!) lost by students, and prepare to differentiate both teaching and curriculum development to support a wide range of learning needs

2. Prioritise remedial education

Focusing on literacy and numeracy foundational knowledge; don’t rush to complete your whole planned out curriculum but rather invest in ‘catch up’ education

Learning mathematics is like learning a language – the less you practice, the more difficult it can be to confidently engage in ‘conversation’. Going ‘back-to-basics’ by focusing teaching on number topics, and teaching for conceptual understanding, can help to bridge learning gaps

See our range of Mastery Learning Plans

Be prepared for more repetition of teaching content than usual in order to improve students’ retention

3. Target additional intervention to the most disadvantaged

Revisit your funding distribution; are your most vulnerable students receiving the most financial support?

Consider how to implement small group or 1-to-1 lessons to allow vulnerable students to catch up in an environment less intimidating than a full classroom

4. Focus on integrating a blended teaching and learning approach

Complete a risk assessment; if a school closure were to happen again, how prepared is your school to operate distance learning?

Develop the technological literacy of both teachers and students such that they are better equipped to handle distance learning

Plan how best to provide remote education both through teacher training and development, and by considering effective online intervention teaching and learning tools which would help free up teacher time

5. Put health, safety and wellbeing first

Address the crisis with your students. Talk to them about their worries, answer their questions and, importantly, help them to rationalise information they may have heard/be hearing about the pandemic.

Remind your school community of support available to them should they need it

Look after yourself. Working in schools can be challenging for staff in the most ‘normal’ circumstances; consider the impact of recent events on your own mental wellbeing and take time to reset and recharge such that you can best support your students

Learn Maths Club can help your most at risk students catch up quicker, and can free up teachers’ time to focus on contingency planning, invest in their professional development and take extra time to care for themselves.

Our ‘Mastery’ Learning Plans on ‘Number and Place Value’ and ‘Four Mathematical Operations’ help students to catch up with foundational math knowledge which they may not have retained as a result of learning disruption. Investing in one-to-one tuition for your most vulnerable students would help them to rebuild their confidence in mathematics whilst developing their fluency and verbal reasoning skills.

We’re here to talk through any questions you might have about how best to support your learners

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