Some students have missed out on aspects of their learning during the pandemic. This may be for many reasons. They may have struggled to access distance learning, or the quality of distance learning was insufficient for their needs. They may have struggled because of student or family illness, resulting in student absence. Or it may be that the ongoing day-to-day disruptions to on campus learning meant that the student fell behind in some areas of their learning. Professional educators are often the first to see these gaps, but what needs to happen next?
I suggest that educators start by asking the following questions:
- Is everyone on the same page? It is one thing to identify learning deficits but quite another to build a shared understanding with fellow educators, the parents and the student as to how to move forward.
- Does this learning gap need to be addressed now? Does the student have the psychological capacity to address this issue? This question speaks to the need for an holistic approach which may also include the school counseling team.
- Is the student able to access all the extra support available in school? If not, why not? A conversation with a student and or a parent will help to understand why not, and what needs to change to encourage the student to maximize all extra support on offer.
- Are the gaps in learning specific to this one student, or is there a shared deficit amongst other students in my class? If the latter, what needs to change? Raise this as an issue with your Head of Department or Learning Support Coordinator, so you can access advice and guidance to address this trend.
If all in-school options have been fully explored, the next step may be to consider recommending an external tutor to parents. However, this can sometimes be problematic. It might be that some educators see this as an admission of failure on their part, or a threat because of a fear of comparison between them and the tutor. What if parents do not react well when asked to consider paying for a tutor when they may already be paying school fees?
It is essential that any discussion to recommend external tutoring should be collaborative. It should be the collective proposal of the school’s learning support and educational administration, grounded in a clear holistic focus on a child’s capacity and priorities. It is important that the educator, or team, who then meet with parents to recommend the use of an external tutor works to clearly identify the issue(s), discuss solutions, set realistic and appropriate goals and estimated timelines for reaching these goals. It is also important in this meeting to remind parents to check tutor credentials, references and safeguarding policies and procedures of the individual or organisation to ensure that they are hiring someone credible and knowledgeable in providing academic and safe support.
This step by step, collaborative and holistic approach where home and school work side by side is essential to support students who have missed out on some aspects of their learning during the pandemic.