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Supporting Your Child Through Learning Loss

Since its outbreak two years ago, the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted education centres globally, affecting young learners at all stages of their academic journeys. At its peak, some 1.6 billion students were affected, with schools, colleges and universities closing their doors to in-person teaching, and many being forced to take up online learning provided to them by their school.

At the time, distance learning in this way was the obvious solution to a rapidly developing crisis, allowing students to keep open communication with their teachers and peers and access valuable resources to maintain their learning. 

Yet, as the pandemic progressed, and parents and teachers began to reflect on the impact that remote learning was having on students, questions were raised about how detrimental the lack of in-person teaching was to academic, social, and motor-skill progression.

Commonly coined as pandemic ‘learning loss,’ these concerns around the impacts of lockdown learning are now being corroborated by real data.  Recent learning loss statistics suggest that children in England are three months behind their studies since the pandemic began, with that figure rising to around 74 days in total of learning loss for children in other international communities.

Despite differing variants of the virus continuing to impact day-to-day living, schools are now open in the majority of countries, supported by robust health and safety measures and good uptakes of vaccination against the virus. But the effects of learning losses, health and well-being of students continues to be sizable, with priority towards educational support essential if we are to reduce its impacts.

Thanks to the united efforts of countries and educational organisations around the world, including UNESCO, who continue to spearhead campaigns to bridge the gap created by learning loss, education systems are being supported during this recovery process. 

For parents, there are plenty of things you can also do at home to help support and mitigate the effects of learning loss on your children as we continue to emerge through the pandemic. We’ll share a few suggestions below on ways to get started.

Request syllabi and readings lists from your child’s teacher 

Firstly, one of the best ways to support your child’s learning loss is to get a better understanding of exactly what they’re learning at school - so you can put additional resources and support in at home where it’s needed. 

If you haven’t already, ask your child’s teacher(s) to give you a copy of the syllabus for each subject your child is studying, as well as any recommended reading lists or supplementary materials you may be able to purchase at home. 

There are plenty of textbooks and resources available to purchase online, and your child’s teacher will be able to recommend specific titles which are most closely aligned with your child’s current abilities and learning style. 

You could even consider hiring a tutor, using the syllabi you’ve been provided as a way to guide your child’s tutoring sessions. The tutor will be able to assess your child’s ability in each area and offer a more tailored learning experience that addresses the areas they’re weakest in. 

If your child is at secondary school and studying for nine or more subjects, trying to offer support in all could be a significant cost and time commitment for you. Instead, request a meeting with your child’s form tutor to discuss any subjects where their grades are below target, giving you a more tailored approach to aid their learning. They may also be able to give you specific topic areas where your child’s knowledge gap is most noticeable.

By having a more comprehensive idea of your child’s current learning needs, you’ll be able to start laying the foundations outside of the school environment to fill in any areas where they may need additional support.

Help them with goal setting

When it comes to supporting your child to bridge the gap between their current and desired academic ability, it can help to sit down and help them with goal planning - giving them clear and actionable steps to take in order to improve their academic performance. 

One of the best goal-setting methods for students to consider using is the SMART goal planning method. SMART is an acronym for a specific set of criteria that can help students dive into their overall goal and further invest in the outcome - increasing their motivation towards reaching that goal and reduce the chances of procrastination.

When broken down, the acronym can be used to help build out and define a student’s goal:

  • Specific: How can the goal be written in a way that is clear and concise? The more specific, the easier it will be to know what is needed to complete the goal.
  • Measurable: How can progress be monitored to ensure students are on track to reach their goal?
  • Achievable: Is the goal challenging enough while still remaining realistic? Something too challenging could demotivate students.
  • Relevant: What impact does the  goal have towards a student’s future ambitions? E.g. If their goal is to get a Grade 7 in GCSE Chemistry, does it help them on their way to becoming a doctor in the future?
  • Time-bound: What’s the end-date for the goal? Having a deadline will hold students accountable.

To support you with helping your child put SMART goal planning into practice, we’ve created a SMART goal planning sheet to help them identify, plan and visualise new goals. 

The sheet offers students a space to consider all the points above and write a goal down in one place. Print off as many copies as goals they want to make. Once complete, you should consider sticking this somewhere where the whole family can be reminded of them - the fridge, noticeboard, or office wall space - it’s a good reminder of everything they want to achieve and help them stay on-track.

Click the link below to download the sheet.

DOWNLOAD SMART GOAL PLANNING SHEET

Establish routine ‘learning’ as a family

Every parent knows the struggles that can come with trying to encourage their child to put in additional study hours outside of school - especially if you already have a busy family calendar filled with extracurriculars. 

If this is something you often struggle with in your household, we encourage you to set aside some time each week or even fortnight that promotes more creative and collaborative ways of ‘learning’ together.

Children are creatures of habit, and the more you can incorporate ‘learning’ in a fun but also more normalised way as a household, the less resistant they may feel to participating in additional learning ventures at home. 

Set aside specific periods of ‘learning’ time - either once a week, fortnightly, or even monthly - when you and your family spend time together trying something new that reconsolidates everything they’re learning at school. 

Now, this doesn’t have to be actual ‘learning’ as such, but setting your child’s subject in real-life contexts in the home environment to help them better their understanding. 

Don’t be afraid to get creative here with how you do this; make use of what’s available to you at home to establish exciting family activities, such as ‘battle re-enactments,’ or even exciting ‘kitchen science experiments’ together.

Perhaps once a month you could even visit museums in the local area that offer exciting displays and activities around the topics your children are covering in class? Or maybe you could see if your local theatre is showing any performances of a play or writer your child is studying at school? 

There’s no end to the types of activities you can sample at home with plenty of resources available online. Again, you may want to consider speaking with your child’s teacher to see if they have any recommendations on places to visit or activities to try that may be best aimed at your child’s learning style.

parents-helping-child-read

Speak to your child about any support they feel they need

When considering the best options for supporting your child’s academia, it can be very easy to overlook their personal needs and leave them out of the conversation - especially if you and your child’s teacher(s) have a very open line of communication about their current academic challenges. 

From the very beginning, we encourage you to sit down and speak with your child about any support they think they may need. This won’t only help you gain a more rounded understanding of their needs but also encourage healthy communication between you both about school.

For example, from a conversation with your child you may find that they are struggling in a particular area in class because remote learning has impacted the way the subject is taught. For example, it goes without saying that science subjects benefit from in-person experiments and various other kinaesthetic activities, allowing children to get hands-on and learn how and why different things work. 

In this case, it might be that a trip to the science museum will help give them that physical reference to the subject and reinforce their understanding of it. Or, it may be an opportunity to get creative at home and try some (safe) but alternative science experiments so your child can get hands-on experience with their learning. 

Another example; you may think that you need to sign your child up to an after-school club to consolidate their class learning, while your child may explain that they’d benefit more from one-on-one learning with a tutor who can tailor the learning experience to them. 

Talking to your child can open up a whole range of conversations and opportunities for you to support them. Include them in the conversation right from day one to keep them engaged so that you as a family can all find a method for moving forward that works best for you all.

Encourage positive daily conversations around school

Aside from the obvious learning loss impacts that came with school closures during the pandemic, research has also shown that in general, children's’ wellbeing and personal development has been negatively impacted as a result of reduced social contact.

For children, especially those at a younger age, school is an opportunity for them to learn and develop essential communication, problem-solving and other key soft skills. Interacting with their peers either in the classroom or on the playground allows them to bond with others their age and learn how to navigate through the world around them. 

Without that daily contact during the pandemic, Ofsted - the UK’s official education inspection organisation - have reported a halt in child development and, with some younger children even regressing back to earlier stages of progress.

Plus, decreases in physical activity outdoors and an increase in sedentary behaviour have all been attributed to worsened mental health in children, with many feeling more anxious and lacking motivation towards their futures. 

This is without mentioning the obvious learning loss that billions of children have experienced as a result of the school closures, with concerns around progression, ability and future prospects all contributing to a more heightened state of nerves. 

As schools begin to return to normality, it’s important to encourage positive conversations about school to support any concerns your child may have. Whether it’s reassuring them that you’ll put in additional help at home to support their academia, or simply being a hand to hold onto until they’re feeling more confident in themselves - it’s key that the home environment helps them feel safe and comfortable, while also positive reinforcing the benefits of returning to school. 

parents-helping-child-read

Consider applying to a summer school

During term time, it can be difficult to implement additional learning resources for your child, such as tutoring - especially if they already have a busy calendar of clubs and hobbies that they engage in outside of school. 

The summer break is the perfect time to consider putting in additional academic support for your child through an accredited summer school and help mitigate any impacts of learning loss. 

There are many benefits to attending a summer school, with the three most important including:

Improve subject understanding and academic skill set

The core purpose of a summer school is to help students improve their academic foundations but they also foster a healthy and supportive environment to help them to grow and develop key skills for future studies.

Summer courses give students a week (for ages 9-12) or two weeks of structured academic programmes, helping improve their subject knowledge for when they return to school. However, it’s not uncommon for summer schools to often schedule additional workshops and lecture series as part of their programmes, which can equip students with interpersonal skills that can help them excel in the future workplace. 

As an example, research suggests that effective communication skills are still the most sought after by employers. So, on our summer courses, we try to foster open and communicative discussions in everything our students do, including; hosting Oxbridge-style debate nights, offering one-to-one tutorials (for students aged 16 and over), as well as a number of communication-focused workshops that are scheduled into students’ timetables. 

In this respect, summer schools are much more than just a supplementary academic camp. Aside from a student’s primary focus being on expanding their subject knowledge, they also have the opportunity to develop key skills that they may have regressed or halted progress in as an effect of the pandemic.

Reduce impacts of summer learning loss

Pandemic learning loss aside, have you ever considered that the summer holiday break often means students regress in their academia and have to play ‘catch-up’ when they return in the new academic year? According to NSLA, 9 out of 10 teachers agree it takes them at least three weeks to re-teach material from the previous academic year - showing the detrimental effects that just a few weeks away from the classroom can have on information retention.

Summer setback – or, summer learning loss, as the term is more commonly referred to – occurs when students return to school after their summer holidays at a lower academic level than they were when they left at the end of the previous academic year. 

During the summer, many students lose access to academic routine and material, which prevents them from making progress. Instead, these students typically take a complete break from studying during the summer, which usually results in a loss of previous learned information and a decline in academic performance. 

One of the most effective ways to reduce the impacts of summer learning loss is for students to attend an academic summer school, where they’ll spend time each day with an expert teacher, following a structured academic timetable to learn more about a subject they’ve selected. 

In addition, our summer courses prioritise small class sizes, with no more than 10 students in classes for ages 9-12, and 8 students in seminars for ages 13+. This gives students the confidence and opportunity to express new ideas with classmates, receive personalised attention from their teacher or tutor, and engage in group activities.

To find out more about the teaching methodologies used on our summer courses, please click here.

oxford-summer-courses-students-sat-outdoors

Gain independence and build interpersonal skills

One of the added benefits of summer schools, especially for younger students, is the opportunity to build their interpersonal skills in a new but supportive environment with other students. 

Summer schools bring international communities of students together for a new cultural experience in the UK; giving them an opportunity to discover the best educational experiences in a new and exciting city. 

During their time on a summer course, students will have experience living away from home, making new friends from around the world, and expanding their cultural horizons - of course, all while being supported by a team of dedicated on-course staff who are available 24/7. 

Outside of class, on-course staff will facilitate stimulating extracurricular activities and experiences in-house and around their city which can include; sport sessions, quizzes, karaoke nights, punting, cinema trips, Quidditch games, city tours, scavenger hunts, debate sessions and more. 

Plus, our summer schools also give students an opportunity to visit other esteemed cultural sites in the UK on a day trip during their time with us. Blenheim Palace, South Kensington, Portsmouth, Warwick Castle, Bath, and Harry Potter Studios are all examples of day trips we have previously run.

It’s an incredible opportunity to character build, gain confidence in new experiences, all while supporting their academic abilities too. 

Browse our summer courses, available for ages 9-24

As we emerge through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that you are able to support your child’s academia as much as possible to mitigate any long-term impacts of the learning losses which they have experienced. 

As mentioned, an academic summer course isn’t just a great opportunity for your child to support their learning over the summer, but also increase confidence, interpersonal skill development, as well as simply enjoying an exciting summer adventure. 

We provide over 50 different academic courses for students between the ages of 9-24 in three major UK student cities: Oxford, Cambridge and London. And, as an award-winning summer school that’s been in operation for over 10 years, we know what it takes to deliver a truly exceptional learning experience for your child - working with some of the best tutors from around the world, in the best academic centres in the UK.

Explore our range of summer courses, available for ages: 9-12, 13-15, 16-17 and 18-24. Or if you’d prefer to discuss your options over email or phone, please contact our admissions team to speak with an advisor.

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Summary

Support your child through any learning loss challenges they face as a result of the pandemic - read through our article for tips and advice.

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