How to Help Children Catch Up When Schools Reopen

Three children writing in notebooks in school class

It was recently announced that primary schools in the UK may soon be opening to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils. And although this is only a few year groups returning to classrooms, we’re likely to see a phased return for all year groups, so it’s time to start thinking about how to help children catch up when they go back to school. 

The reality is that different children will have done different amounts of learning during the lockdown. So teachers may need to adopt a flexible approach to learning and plan lessons for classes of children with different levels of understanding. 

Here are some things you can do to help you get children back on track with their education after the coronavirus school closures. 

Review Children’s Learning Needs and Provide Necessary Support

Before you can give children the support they need to catch up, you need to know where they’re at in terms of what they’ve learned at home and what they remember from pre-lockdown lessons. So you may want to review children’s learning needs with an informal assessment or one-to-one discussions. 

Once you have a better understanding of children’s learning needs, you can provide suitable support. This might involve recapping lessons for the whole class, or offering personalised support to individual children or groups of pupils.

Consider Accelerated Learning Techniques

As part of their plan for schools reopening, UNESCO has suggested trying accelerated learning strategies to help children quickly meet learning objectives.

Accelerated learning can take many forms, but the idea is to help children absorb, understand and retain information quickly by engaging all of the senses in the learning process. This type of learning can appeal to all learning styles, as children can learn through physical activity, creativity, reading and writing activities and visual and audio resources. 

Some teachers find accelerated learning helps children to quickly grasp concepts and enjoy the learning process, so it may be worth trying accelerated learning techniques when children return to school — this approach may be able to close the gap sooner rather than later. 

As well as testing a different approach to learning, some schools are considering adopting a temporarily accelerated syllabus that focuses on core subjects to ensure that children are up to date on essential knowledge. 

Organise After-School Study Clubs

Another recommendation from UNESCO is to organise after-school study classes that children can attend if they’re behind with lessons. After-school classes can be a good idea if a small group of children all need similar support — you can deliver it more efficiently by creating a small study class, rather than helping each child individually. And by going over past lessons after school, rather than during lessons that are focused on new topics, children can go over any missed topics without falling behind on current lessons.

Be Prepared to Recap Pre-Lockdown Lessons

By the time all children return to school, lots of pupils will have been out of school for many weeks or even months. So in addition to going over lessons they might have missed during the lockdown, you may need to recap pre-lockdown lessons too. 

The lessons that children learned just before lockdown may have been forgotten — children might not have touched on these in their home-learning activities, and with all of the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, they may not have been able to concentrate or retain information during the actual lessons.

Set Home-Learning Tasks

For children who have a lot of catching up to do, home-learning tasks might be one of the best solutions. By setting homework, you can speed up the process of getting children back on track with their education. You can also set specific tasks for individual children based on their unique learning needs.

When setting home-learning tasks or projects, it’s worth communicating with parents about the importance of these tasks, and asking them to encourage and support children with homework. We all know children who are reluctant to do homework, but with parents aware of home-learning expectations, children are more likely to embrace and engage with tasks. 

Encourage Parents to Reintroduce Routine Before Schools Reopen 

Returning to school is likely to involve some teething problems. After so long off from school, children might be reluctant to return to the classroom and may find it difficult to concentrate throughout the day — six to seven hours can feel like a long time, especially for little ones. So when schools reopen, it might take children a while to get used to the routine. 

One way to make the transition back to full-time education smoother for children is to encourage parents to reintroduce routine to children’s daily lives before schools reopen. Children who follow a home-learning schedule are more likely to jump straight back into normal school days without any problems.

We’ve created a home-learning schedule that children can follow until they’re able to return to school. Parents can access a printable version by signing up for a free account on our parents’ page

Schedule for home schooling children

Use Differentiated Resources in the Classroom

Using resources like worksheets, you can give children the chance to practise their problem-solving abilities and consolidate their understanding of topics. And one advantage of individual worksheets and similar resources is that different children can complete different worksheets depending on their level of ability. With differentiated resources, you can make sure children have access to suitably challenging activities. 

There are thousands of maths resources on the Master the Curriculum website that you can access quickly and easily. You can find different resources for individual children, or groups of children with similar learning needs, in a matter of minutes. You just need to sign up for a membership to gain access. 

Support Children If They Are Feeling Worried or Anxious 

Some children will be feeling anxious and stressed as a result of the coronavirus crisis. They might be worrying about the future, scared of catching the virus and feeling lonely, having not seen their friends and classmates in a long time. 

So when thinking about how to help children successfully return to school, teachers also need to consider children’s mental health. Children who are worried or anxious may struggle to concentrate on lessons or feel nervous about returning to the classroom. 

To support children and ensure that their return to school is as stress-free as possible, schools need to make sure that children feel safe. You will likely need to enforce social-distancing measures in the classroom, but you should also talk to children about what’s going on and reassure them that it’s okay to feel worried, scared or anxious. Encouraging children to talk about their feelings and answering any questions they might have can help them feel at ease. 

Consider How Current Events Might Have Affected Children’s Confidence

As well as causing children to feel worried or anxious, current events may have caused a knock in children’s confidence levels, especially with their learning. Having been out of education for a substantial amount of time, children may not feel confident in their understanding of topics and this low self-esteem can prevent them from adopting a healthy, growth mindset.

So when pupils return to school, teachers should consider how current events might have affected children’s confidence. You may need to use teaching strategies to help children rebuild their confidence and adopt a healthy mindset in the classroom. 

Addressing children’s mental health and confidence, and giving them the emotional support they need, can help children feel able to happily get back to school and embrace education.  

Master the Curriculum is here to help you through these difficult times. We’re a team of teachers ourselves, so we know that current events have been challenging. But our goal is to help teachers continue delivering valuable lessons and make the return to school as smooth as possible. 

We offer thousands of primary maths resources that can help you streamline your lesson planning, enhance your classroom lessons and encourage home learning. Many of our resources are available completely free of charge. Just sign up for a free or premium membership to start accessing resources straight away.

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