GCSE and A Level Exams: Your Questions Answered

studying for the GCSE exams

We examine A level, GCSE and Btec results in England for the 2019/20 academic year and their impact.   

 
Bright Heart

Bright Heart

We consider questions about the exam results in 2020 and consequences for 2021 exams.

GCSE and A-level Exams: Your Questions Answered

All aspects of our lives under the COVID-19 pandemic have been marked by uncertainty. Education has been hit particularly hard.  School closures have had detrimental effects on learning and mental health for most families in England. The recent announcement of exam results was no smoother. In this blog, we discuss A level, GCSE and Btec results in England for the 2019/20 academic year. This is of particular importance for A Level students, as their university places depend on their grades (UCAS points).

studying for the GCSE exams
It has not been an easy time for students, especially those who were preparing for a final exam.

What role does Ofqual play in regulating grades and why do they intervene?

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) regulates qualifications, exams and tests in England.  They designed a system to regulate teachers’ predicted grades under the premise that teachers tend to overestimate performance. Grades are also meant to be consistent with previous years’ data.   

It is human nature to be optimistic about student progress. Teachers expect their students’ results to improve by the end of each school year when working under normal conditions. However, research shows that teachers’ predictions are usually generous. A recent analysis of schools’ predicted GCSE grades by FFT Education Datalab found that the average grade predicted by teachers in England in 2020 was higher than the average grade in 2019 in every subject.  Last year, only 20% of students applying to university met or exceeded their predicted grades.

Ofqual’s algorithm used a three-prong system. It included historic results of pupils at each school, prior student attainment, and statistical expectations of grades for each subject. The objective was to ensure that results were in line with those from the previous year.

Why were the initial results so controversial?

Controversy arose well before A level results were issued in England on Thursday, 13th August. The Scottish precedent, using the same regulatory framework as in England, featured a deluge of complaints from students, parents, teachers and head teachers. This prompted a government retraction with Nicola Sturgeon apologising to thousands of students and promising to amend grades to reflect teacher predictions.

In England, as expected, there was a similar reaction.  Many students were disheartened to find that 39% of predicted grades had been lowered, some by more than one grade.

Parents and students complained that the system did not do justice to the efforts of many who had worked hard throughout the year, but had been deprived of formal education during lockdown.   They claimed that many brilliant students would see their grades lowered simply because they came from poorly performing schools, against the better judgement of their teachers. This was called a ‘postcode lottery’. It raised the question, should a weak student in a class, who worked hard and was expected to pass, be failed simply due to the school history?

What was the government’s response to the controversy and how did people react?

Just before the A-level results were released on Thursday, 13th August, the government made rapid changes to the grading system. This was an effort to appease potential complaints, in what they described as a ‘triple lock’. Students could opt for the highest of three different assessments: their estimated grade, the result of a mock exam (as part of an appeal), or sitting an exam in October.

This measure brought a fresh surge of vitriol.  Head teachers in England referred to this last-minute arrangement by the government  as a ‘shambles’. The move was also criticised by the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, who condemned it as a ‘complete fiasco’ and asked to have it scrapped.  Critics argued that decisions should have been made and communicated in good time, mock exams are not standardised and lowering grades based on school performance is discriminatory against pupils from deprived areas.

There were many protests from students throughout the country. They deemed it unfair to have their grades brought down based on Ofqual’s algorithm and demanded a retraction like that of the Scottish government.  Many also asked for appeal fees to be waived.  However, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson initially refused to use teachers’ predicted grades as final grades in England. Boris Johnson had already stated that the system was ‘robust’ and ‘dependable’.

The government U-turn

On Monday, 17th August, the government caved in to political and student pressure. Students (A Level and GCSE) were awarded grades estimated by their teachers (Centre Assessed Grade or CAG), unless the algorithm grades were higher. Gavin Williamson said he was “incredibly sorry for the distress” caused to pupils after having to make this U-turn.

Btec results were unfortunately pulled at the last minute on the 20th of August. This was as they would also use a CAG to be in line with the GCSE and A Level adjustment.

The political fallout continued with the head of Ofqual, Sally Collier, resigning. A DfE senior civil servant, Jonathan Slater, was sacked over the ‘algorithm’.

GCSE and A Level results

For the 500,000 GCSE students, 79 % achieved a pass which is up from 70 % in 2019.  More than 27 % of students received a grade 7 or above, which is equivalent to A or A*. By comparison, 21 % of students achieved grade 7 or higher in 2019, which was the highest proportion since 2015. This means that more pupils will be eligible to study difficult subjects at A Level. A Level results can be seen below:

A Level results 2020
Comparison of A and A* for 2017 to 2020 (all ages)
A Level Results
Average number of A Levels per student, 2017 to 2020
A Level exam results infographic
Showing the relationship of this year's CAG to final grades, 2017 to 2020

What’s next for students wishing to attend university?

Once a university makes an unconditional offer it is contractually required to honour this commitment, unless the degree is cancelled.  It remains to be seen how universities will handle the surge of applicants who can now claim a place. This means some eligible students with recalculated grades will have to defer to next year. There are also many students (17 % estimated in this Guardian article) choosing to defer as they do not wish for their first year of studies to be online, leading to a possible backlog in 2021.

As an example with Cambridge University:

  • Those with a place already confirmed will be admitted.
  • Applicants who were made an offer and their CAG results meet the required conditions will be admitted.
  • Deferral to 2021 will be required for some offer holders due to limited places
  • Students who have not previously had their place confirmed and who just missed their offer based on CAGs will not be admitted.
  • If students sit examinations this autumn and gain the results required to meet the terms of their original offer, they will be admitted in 2021.

What about GCSE and A Level exam resits?

Due to the recent acceptance of CAGs for students, there is likely to be limited demand for exam resits. However, lockdown was disruptive for students and there may be some who would like to take a resit if their CAG was disappointing.

For students wishing to take ‘resit’ A-level exams, exams run from 5 October to 23 October. The deadline for entries is 4 September. Students will not have to pay for these resits and schools will be able to claim this expense from the government. These results will be announced on 17 December. Any student who is unhappy with their results may still appeal as usual. See A Level exam board timetable links below:

GCSE resits will take place from 2 November to 23 November. The deadline for entries is 4 October for English Language and Mathematics. The deadline for all other subjects is 18 September. GCSE results for English Language, Functional Skills, AQA Certificate and Level 3 Extended Project is 14 January 2021. All other GCSE exams results will be out on 11 February 2021.

For GCSE exam board timetables please see the following links:

What changes will there be for GCSEs and A Levels in 2021?

Concerns were raised about the lockdown challenges for certain students. These include students with no home access to the internet or to a computer, those with caring responsibilities, those most vulnerable to coronavirus and students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). 

In light of this, various changes have been proposed for GCSE exams for 2021. These changes are to address concerns that pupils may have missed out on learning. The changes also enable certain assessments to go ahead in a way that allows for maximum social distancing, e.g. by reducing the need for group performances. A full outline of GCSE/A Level changes can be read online here, with a subject by subject summary provided by Schools Week.

Recently, Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who chairs the Commons Education Select Committee, said there was only a “50:50” chance of A-level and GCSE exams taking place next summer. Labour have also raised concerns with Shadow Education Secretary saying students starting Y11 and Y13 had a “mountain to climb”. They propose that exams should be pushed back to mid-summer (late July) to allow more catch up time.

Gavin Williamson has recently said that Ofqual is working with the education sector to decide about a potential short delay to the 2021 exam timetable.

What about Btec exams?

Students began receiving their revised exam results from Pearson on 25 August. These were adjusted in line with the GCSE and A Level changes made earlier.

How can Bright Heart help?

We recognise that it has been a frustrating and anxious time for students. We are helping students with revision tutoring sessions for Btec, GCSEs and A Levels. Our tutors will do their utmost to help students taking resits get ready in time. Our tutors are also working hard to help students taking 2021 exams catch-up, following a most disruptive year. Please get in touch for your free consultation and find out how our nurturing approach could be perfect for your child.

What has been your experience with the exam results process? We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly to chat.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Your child’s mental health during times of stress

boy with anxiety

We bring attention to some warning signs relating to mental health. This is particular important at this time.    

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In time of stress, mental health is increasingly important. We consider some warning signs.

Your child’s mental health during times of stress

According to The Guardian, fewer young people are receiving help with mental health issues. This is despite levels of anxiety and depression having risen sharply in the under 18 age group. 

Reasons include mental health services being suspended or restricted and a lack of in-person engagement. The closure of schools – a first point of referral for distressed children – has certainly not helped.  

an unhappy girl doing homework
Learning and engagement is strongly affected by one's mental and emotional state.

Lockdowns have negatively impacted many children

Almost one in four children living under COVID-19 lockdowns, social restrictions and school closures are dealing with feelings of anxiety, with many at risk of lasting psychological distress, including depression. In recent surveys by Save the Children of over 6000 children and parents in the US, Germany, Finland, Spain and the UK, up to 65 per cent of the children struggled with boredom and feelings of isolation.”  

Reliefweb International, 7 May 2020

The pandemic has turned the lives of millions of children and young people upside down. Many young people are finding it hard to cope with isolation, a loss of routine, anxiety about the future, a disruption to their education, and in some cases difficult or traumatic experiences at home.”

Emma Thomas of YoungMinds, a leading UK not-for-profit championing mental health for young people

boy with anxiety
We all have times when we need to talk to someone. This is especially true for children.

The impact of COVID-19 on children's mental health

While it has been a challenging time for parents, children have felt the effects of social distancing and isolation with far-reaching effects. The British Psychological Society, together with more than thirty other organisations, have written an open letter to the Government. This letter was urging them to limit the long-term impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health.

What should parents consider for their child's mental health?

Previously, we covered the importance of planning an active day in our homeschooling tips for parents and the importance of physical activity. Eating regular meals, getting sufficient sleep and limiting screen time go together with this.

Good mental health is a much-needed foundation for learning.

However, you may find your children require additional support.  

Some warning signs to be aware of in your child’s behaviour that could indicate impaired mental health can be remembered by using the acronym MASK:

M – Mood

They get irritable, argumentative or aggressive towards you. They may blame you if things go wrong. They can also become withdrawn.

A – Actions

They may experience changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Look out for any signs of bullying, over- or under-eating or self-harm.

S – Social

They suddenly appear especially bored, lonely or withdrawn or they start to get into trouble. Losing interest in friends and other things they liked to do or loss of interest and motivation with schoolwork are common warning signs.

K - Keep talking

Refusing or being reluctant to talk about how they’re feeling is common. But keep listening and ask how they are feeling. When they do open up, make sure they know there’s someone there who really cares.

Please note that these symptoms are by no means diagnostic in nature. Professional advice is always preferable, especially if you have any doubt as to what may be causing the change in your child’s behaviour.

Attention and active listening go a long way in making sure your child does not slip under the radar.

Where can I get extra help for my child's mental health?

Fortunately, there is plenty of help at hand and we recommend reaching out to the team at YoungMinds where you will find many resources and professional support available.

Other sources of support include:

The NSPCC and the Mental Health Foundation.

We are also here to help with any learning issues relating to anxiety and social and emotional mental health. Feel free to get in touch with one of our experienced directors to discuss your needs. We offer a free consultation and a free trial lesson to help build rapport.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

The importance of physical activity during lockdown

boy gardening with his father

Keeping moving is important at this time, for children and parents, for mind and body. Several activities are suggested.    

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Exercise is important during this time. Here we look at some helpful activities for children and families

Physical activities for children during lockdown

The day-to-day realities of living in lockdown with your family are not easy. For many parents, the homeschooling, the constant entertaining and attempts at keeping the peace while you are also working from home can leave you feeling frustrated; this “new normal” can be challenging for the child and the parent.

It is therefore imperative to find activities to keep the whole family active and healthy.

Physical activity is paramount; at present we are all too aware of our health and maintaining or improving our physical well-being as a means of strengthening immunity. You only have to watch TV, look online or talk to someone to see the importance of being active – for example, Joe Wicks’ daily workouts , Captain Tom’s gallant walking triumph or even the government’s daily exercise guidance .

Here are some suggestions to help you and your children get more active, creative and fitter:

5 activities to keep the family moving

  1. A family that downward dogs together, stays together

Yoga is the perfect activity for everyone. With a plethora of online kids’ yoga and live Zoom classes to join, you and your children can strengthen your bodies and practice mindfulness together. The blend of flowing sequences and meditative, breathing exercises provides your child with skills to enhance their coordination and balance. It improves core strength and helps connect with their emotions through each backbend, sun salutation and twist.

Have a look here for some online kids’ yoga.

yoga with your children
Yoga is a form of exercise that integrates mind and body.
  1. Dance, baby dance!

Bust through the boredom with a dance party. The blessing of being locked down in 2020 is the wonderful technology at our fingertips. From FaceTime to Zoom, Houseparty and WhatsApp, there are plenty of available online organised dance parties for children of all ages, perfect for a little social interaction with other children, while listening to music and dancing around the living room; high energy for the kids and low effort for the parents! If a dance party with strangers is not your thing, why not arrange a virtual dance party for the kids with their cousins, friends or relatives so you can catch up while they attempt The Floss.

Children dancing for exercise
Dancing will always bring smiles to children, while keeping them moving.
  1. Treasure hunts

This is a great one for those parents that want to get creative and get the kids running around the garden or house. This can be as easy or complicated as you like and can last as long as you choose, meaning the kids are staying active and alert while being fully engaged. Hide anywhere from 10 – 20 gifts, clues or items around the house and watch their inner Miss Marple solve away. This one is great for a physical and mental workout.

map for a treasure hunt
Create your own map and let your children find the treasure!
  1. The Joe Wicks effect

Getting the kids involved in national or global events like daily aerobic classes can be hugely inclusive and great for them to discuss with friends who are also participating. The skilfully choreographed moves are designed to be a perfect PE alternative during this period, which can be enjoyed as a family or just for the children while you do a bit of work from home yourself.

Joe Wicks PE classes for children
Morning PE for kids has proved popular in the UK (Source: thebodycoach.com)
  1. Gardening

Few activities are as rewarding and active as gardening. Don’t worry about how big the garden is, as there are many ways gardening can work for you, from window boxes or small patches to larger areas. For children and adults, sowing seeds, watering, digging and planting are perfect for keeping them active and getting them interested in nature and the environment. In fact, while they are at it, why not get the gloves on them and get some weeding done too? Before you know it, the garden will be looking beautiful, the kids will be exhausted and you may even get some delicious fresh vegetables for dinner.

boy gardening with his father
Gardening is a therapeutic and rewarding physical activity.

Whatever activities you decide to do as a family, you don’t want to squander away this time at home.

Before the lockdown is over and we start living our new version of post-pandemic life, it is crucial to ask ourselves, “what did I/we do during this unprecedented time?”

The answer, “we survived, we grew, we became stronger, fitter and more connected”.

What has been your experience of exercise during lockdown?

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly with any questions. You can read more about the positive effects of exercise in a guest blog by one of our tutors: learning through sport. 

We have written a series of blogs about education during lockdown which you also may find useful: Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdownQuestions (FAQs) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown and Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

Bright Heart will continue to offer guidance and support during this challenging period.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Facebook Live Q & A about homeschooling during lockdown

FB Live with John Salmon, Bright Heart director

Bright Heart director John Salmon, M.Ed., answers pertinent questions live on Facebook about homeschooling during lockdown.        

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In a live Q & A, John Salmon, M.Ed, addressed parent’s typical homeschooling concerns due to lockdown.

Facebook Live Q & A about homeschooling during lockdown

We recently held a Facebook Live Q & A to address parent’s questions about homeschooling during lockdown.  This was hosted by Jacqui Mackway-Wilson, our social media manager, with questions answered by Bright Heart director and former headteacher John Salmon, M.Ed.

Facebook Live streaming

Key questions covered

  • 0m49s -- Learn more about John
  • 2m33s -- Typical challenges seen during lockdown when it comes to online learning
  • 5m40s -- Pointers for parents to structure the school day at home for their children
  • 9m51s -- How can technology in general and online tutoring in particular better support parents and students during lockdown?
  • 13m48s -- What about learners with special educational needs and challenges that SEN students are facing during lockdown?
  • 18m33s -- What signs of stress or distress, related to this online learning, should I be aware of as a parent, particularly as a parent of a child with special educational needs? And how can I help my child navigate this?
  • 22m22s -- What should I look for when selecting a tutor, whether for online or in-person support?
  • 27m22s -- Listen to John’s concluding remarks
Facebook Live Q & A about homeschooling during lockdown
Click on the picture to watch the Q & A about homeschooling.

What has been your experience of education during lockdown?

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly with any questions. You can read about the experiences of a Bright Heart student, parent and tutor in a recent blog here.

We have written a series of blogs about education during lockdown which you may find useful: Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdownQuestions (FAQs) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown and Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

Bright Heart will continue to offer guidance and support during this challenging period.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Personal stories of homeschooling and online tutoring during lockdown

Online teaching during lockdown

Unique educational perspectives are shared from a student, parent and tutor during the current lockdown.            

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In this next instalment we look at some of the personal experiences of homeschooling from those affected by lockdown.

Personal stories about homeschooling and online tutoring during lockdown

In light of these challenging circumstances, we reached out to the Bright Heart community for their perspectives on homeschooling and online tutoring during lockdown. Thank you for all your insightful comments and questions.

Special thanks to Tom (student), Steven (parent) and Angela (tutor) for sharing their experiences with us and agreeing to have them published.

Tom (student, aged 10)

Let’s start with one of our most enthusiastic and brilliant young minds, Tom. He has fully embraced online tutoring during the last month and a half.  It has been such a pleasure to see how much Tom has progressed during the last year. It has been especially rewarding to know that he has been able to keep the good work up during lockdown, despite all the added challenges.

I have been having lessons with John for about a year now.  I have a lot of ideas, but sometimes I have trouble organising them. John really helps me with planning my writing and putting it down on paper. I was a bit nervous about having a tutor at the beginning, but I have not regretted it since, as it has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience! 

The transition from face to face sessions to online has been very smooth and I feel like I am learning just as much as before. I still look forward to every session and it is one of the highlights of my week. I would definitely recommend Bright Heart Tutors.

Online teaching during lockdown
Online learning has been an enjoyable experience for some students during lockdown

Steven (parent of a Y7 boy)

One of our Bright Heart parents, Steven, wrote to us to share some of his family’s experiences with homeschooling. In his detailed account, he talks about the inadequate use of technology by the school and the anxiety that the mounting workloads and lack of in-person instruction has caused his son during lockdown. It is worth noting that teachers also feel overwhelmed and unprepared these days, despite having technological tools at their disposal, as no one could foresee the scale and complexities of the current situation. Steven decided to use our online tutoring service to help his son overcome his anxiety and guide him with his work on a daily basis.

My son’s school has decided to use Microsoft Teams as its remote learning platform. There were a few technical issues, which are understandable, but I’m not impressed with the way the school has organised these lessons, as the school has decided to host lessons to all or nearly all students at once per subject.

My child is in year 7, so we’re talking multiple classes in the same year group, or basically 100+ children per subject. This wouldn’t be so much of an issue in older year groups such as GCSE or A Levels since the myriad subject choices students could choose at this level means that each subject naturally would contain less children, but this presents a problem for younger ones. To keep things in some semblance of order, children are asked to mute their audio and keep their video off. Their only outlet for questions is via the text chat function. This results in either too many questions at once, overwhelming the teacher’s ability to teach and answer them at the same time, or where the teacher is presenting and not looking at the chat completely, a torrent of irrelevant chat and GIFs; hardly surprising since the children are only 12 years old and there’s potentially 100 of them in the same lesson.

In terms of presentation, a Maths lesson I observed had the teacher talking and demonstrating by using a camera pointed down at a desk whiteboard. This hints at teachers not being provided with the right equipment. A tablet computer or separate tablet device (with or without screen) is what they should be using. Perhaps this is part of the teething issues and will be resolved at a later date as the school gains more experience from this approach to learning.

Recently I also saw a pre-recorded lesson. It looked more professional, as the teacher had clearly taken the time to create the presentation deck and voice over during the lesson. However, this is not ideal as it wasn’t live.

The biggest issues I see with the above approach that need to be considered and rectified by the school are:

  • Why are classes so large? During standard school, physical classes are 30 children. This allows the teacher to split their time answering questions and teaching. This is not possible with class sizes approaching 100 children, either physically or remotely. As it stands, this is more "lecturing" than "teaching".
  • Why don't teachers have better equipment? Pointing a camera at a physical whiteboard does work, however, with the right equipment there are better options available that preserve resolution and are easier to read. Microsoft Teams has a digital whiteboard, which would be ideal with the right equipment.
  • From my understanding, the classes are recorded. But I don't see any way to access these recordings, when one advantage of remote learning over physical should be the ability to replay a recorded class. The school should make these available to the students after the lesson.

My child’s school remote learning implementation is not the greatest. Large class sizes, almost no ability for interaction or questions, no record of the class post lesson, results in an inferior learning experience. I think the school should lower class sizes by having more teachers present, thus allowing more interaction. It should make recordings available to the students afterward, provide more training and better equipment to teachers.  

Hopefully as the school gains experience and more teachers become available to teach, some of these issues will start to diminish or even disappear. Hopefully this happens sooner rather than later. But from my observation, remote learning as implemented by my child’s school is little better than my child teaching himself. Only the fact that the classes are at set times and timetabled give any sort of advantage to this approach.

My son has learning difficulties and he was feeling overwhelmed and anxious with the technical issues, impossible workloads and lack of communication with his teachers.  He is in constant need of support and encouragement and I therefore sought the help of Bright Heart to increase the number of tutoring sessions through their online platform. Having that 1:1 support proved to be invaluable for my son, who is now successfully coping with all the challenges which seemed insurmountable to him not too long ago.”    

Online tutoring
Learning online has presented unique challenges for students, teachers, parents and tutors during lockdown

Angela (Bright Heart tutor)

Finally, one of our tutors, Angela, who made the transition from in-person to online tutoring relates her experience below, which has been educational for both her and her students.

Working as an online tutor during lockdown has generally been very positive. 

I am currently 9 months pregnant so it has been a great way to continue supporting the students while not having to navigate the tube at rush hour! Overall, it has been remarkable to see how some of the children have adapted to and have enjoyed using the technology. I have seen them engage in novel ways with the material and some have demonstrated more agency in their learning. Having a screen in front of them, at a set time has also, somewhat surprisingly, been a good medium for those students who struggle to focus. 

My students have benefitted from the consistency of maintaining weekly tuition and it has definitely given them confidence in using new skills. It has also brought about new skills for me, for example, forcing me to be more concise in my instruction and explanation. Overall, I believe that going forward, it is an excellent option for students and tutors alike.”

What has been your experience of education during lockdown?

We would love to hear about it on our Facebook page, or feel free to get in touch directly to see how we can help. 

We have written a series of blogs about education during lockdown which you may find useful: Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdownQuestions (FAQ) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown and Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor.

We also held a Facebook Live Q & A where we answered some common questions from parents at this time.

Bright Heart will continue to offer guidance and support during this challenging period.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

student learning online with tutor

In part 3 of our lockdown blog series, one of our directors discusses online tutoring and provides some tips.                

John Salmon director

In part 3, I provide some details on online tuition and provide tips for using an online tutor

Pros and cons of online tutoring and tips for parents using an online tutor

In this third blog in a 3-part series to help parents during lockdown, I discuss online tutoring. Online tuition has experienced a massive surge in popularity due to lockdown.

With the growth of technology and the desire for education in the home, online tutoring had already been experiencing increasing adoption before coronavirus (COVID-19).     

Online tutoring platforms have been improving, as they allow for interactive teaching and learning, as well as effective evaluation, in real time. Online tutoring also presents opportunities for students who live in areas that are hard to access, where there are not many tutors. For tutors, online tutoring is much more efficient than navigating the city’s public transport or driving at rush hour.

While in-person tuition is often the preferred option for parents, there are some students who find in-person social interaction awkward and who may feel more comfortable online. There are also many students who enjoy technology and find this method of learning exciting. However, for some students with special educational needs (SEN) who require kinaesthetic learning, meeting their needs online will not be as attainable. Building rapport, which is an important part of tutoring, is a bit more challenging online. Some parents are also happier once they’ve met the tutor in person before online lessons commence.

Let’s consider some of the pros and cons of online tutoring and some general tips for parents.

student learning online with tutor
Online tuition has certain strengths and weaknesses

What are some advantages of online tutoring?

  • Generally easy to setup with a tutoring platform – a link can be provided by the tutor
  • Allows education to continue when in-person tuition is difficult for whatever reason
  • For some students with concentration issues a screen can help their focus
  • Some children who have social anxiety may prefer online tuition
  • Children get excited about technology and enjoy the novel aspects of learning this way
  • Tuition can be scheduled to fit in with one’s day much more easily
  • Online tutoring platforms offer many great technological features. Features include lesson recording, enhanced security and an interactive whiteboard. Bright Heart offers online tutoring using a premium online tutoring platform called Bramble.
  • Online tutoring is frequently cheaper than in-person tuition, as a parent does not need to pay for a tutor’s travel time. At Bright Heart, we provide a 10% discount for online tuition compared to in-person home tuition.
  • A greater pool of tutors from which to find the perfect match, as a student is not limited to tutors that live nearby.

What are some disadvantages of online tutoring?

  • Traditional online tutoring agencies are unlikely to meet tutors in person (as the latter could be based in many different locations and agencies will often have many tutors listed). The vetting process may not be as stringent therefore, as it is for a bespoke tutoring agency such as Bright Heart, which meets all its tutors in person and only offers online tuition using its pool of carefully vetted professionals.
  • More time is needed for the first lesson in setting up the technology and it requires a reliable broadband connection
  • Rapport and trust are a bit harder to build online with the student
  • Although still possible, tactile learning becomes more challenging and online tuition will be less effective for students with certain SEN whose needs require the physical presence of a tutor
  • Sometimes simple instructions or concepts are not so easy to explain online
  • Parents do not get to know their tutor in person
Parents should take precautions to make sure they are happy with the online tutor for their child.

6 tips for parents using a private online tutor

  1. Use an agency that follows strict protocols when screening and interviewing tutors and conducting background checks (Enhanced DBS) and reference checks. Although the tutor is not physically present in the home, using a carefully vetted tutor that the agency knows personally is very important.
  1. Check that the tutoring agency or tutor is using a suitable platform for tuition. This would be one that allows video, audio, file sharing and online whiteboard options. The latter is important when evaluating written content in real time. The ability to share pictures related to the topic (e.g. volcanoes for Geography) is also helpful to maintain interest.
  1. Preferably meet them in person beforehand; however, if this is not possible, set up an online mini interview before the lesson to get a sense of their approach, personality and experience.
  1. Prior to the first lesson, allow some time to set up the technology and to gain some familiarity with it. Children are naturals with technology, but some applications are more intuitive than others.
  1. Make sure the topic is chosen prior to the lesson. Extra preparation is needed for online tuition and this will be much appreciated by the tutor.
  1. Carefully review the first online lesson to make sure that you are comfortable with the tutor and that your child and the tutor have established the necessary rapport. A good tutoring agency will also provide a lesson report following the session and some agencies, such as Bright Heart, even offer a free trial to make sure you are completely satisfied before continuing.   
Gardening during lockdown has shown a large increase in popularity

What can we do to help you during lockdown?

This lockdown period will be a challenge for everyone. But with every challenge there is an opportunity – with a little thought and planning this period can be productive and a time of family connection and reflection. We hope that you keep healthy with your family and make the most of the next months. We also hope you have found this 3-part blog series helpful – see Part 1 and Part 2.

My fellow Bright Heart directors and I are here to help at this difficult time. Please don’t hesitate to contact us. Whether it is simply to ask a question about the blog series or to discuss how one of our experienced, caring tutors could be the right choice to help your child, we are always happy to hear from parents.

Please share our blogs with other parents if you think they could be helpful. We would also love you to share your own experiences and tips with us through our Facebook page.


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Questions (FAQ) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown

GCSE and A Level exams cancelled

In part 2 of our lockdown blog series, one of our directors provides answers to some common questions.    

John Salmon director

In part 2 of this blog series I address common questions students and parents have at this time.

Questions (FAQ) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown

The unprecedented actions of the government have left parents with many unanswered questions. In this, the second blog in a 3-part series, I attempt to answer some frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the consequences of the lockdown on education in the UK.

We attempt to provide guidance on some of these questions below and seek to address concerns where possible. This is based on current government guidance about lockdown / COVID-19, although it should be noted that things may change at short notice. If anything is unclear, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or one of Bright Heart’s other directors.

Can I still get tutoring for my child when the UK is effectively in lockdown?

Lockdown does not mean that schools have ceased to provide education to our children, as assignments are still pouring in and deadlines have to be met. Students no longer have the benefit of direct contact with teachers or peers, however.  Thus, many parents are seeking tutoring to help their families with the added pressure while still respecting the government orders of social distancing.  

Parents have a right to get some help for their children, with many tuition agencies now offering online tutoring. Some tuition agencies are still able to offer in-person tuition in limited circumstances.  Face-to-face lessons are approved by the government for students who are considered vulnerable, in situations where online tuition is not a viable option.

In this regard, the Department for Education classify the following children as vulnerable:

“Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with education, health and care (EHC) plans.

Children who have a social worker include children in need, children who have a child protection plan and those who are looked after by the local authority. We will work with schools, early years, FE providers and local authorities to help identify the children who most need support at this time.”

Read more information about vulnerable children here.

Read more information about the closure of schools here.

How do I keep my child busy and still manage to work from home during lockdown?

We are sensitive to the challenges that are being faced by many parents who are trying to juggle work at home and helping children learn at the same time. To help you cope with these challenges, we have gathered a number of recommended activities and resources that address both the academic and emotional/social needs of your children, including our own top 10 recommendations, found in the first blog of this series. We have also written earlier about some fun activities for children here.

At the same time, despite the benefits of following a daily routine, child psychologists warn that parents should still leave some room for flexibility to avoid pursuing an over-controlled environment. This may lead to more stress and anxiety in children. It is therefore crucial to maintain a healthy balance, which can be achieved through the understanding of your child’s wants and needs. 

Taking some time for a break in Nature can do much to alleviate stress.

Should I give my child an extended break, now that their GCSE or A level exams have been cancelled?

This period of lockdown and school closures will have a substantial impact on children’s education, as stated by the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Prof. Chris Whitty. While many children will celebrate this break from school and welcome respite from the anxiety of preparing for exams, the required levels of education needed for Key Stages 1 to 5 and university (Further Education), will not be changing. Parents therefore need to carefully consider the impact this 3-month period (potentially 6 months until September) will have on their children’s education.

Results will be given by the end of July, based on prior attainment such as mock exams, non-exam assessments and other criteria.  However, if students deem their grades unsatisfactory or not a true reflection of their proficiency, they may appeal and take an exam during the next academic year.  

The lockdown period may lead to a highly detrimental period of inactivity.  Keeping your children busy is crucial if they wish to retain their competitive advantage when they go back to school.

We encourage students to use this time wisely, for example, by focussing on core subjects such as Maths and English, as well as areas of improvement that are important for their future studies and / or career paths.

GCSE and A Level exams cancelled
Students and teachers will need to consider what will be the most effective path with exams being cancelled

Will a GCSE student struggle at A level in the same subject?

Most schools are in revision mode for their GCSE syllabi by the time they reach February. This means students should have covered the required material; however, the level of testing of their knowledge will only be based on internal tests and mock exams. Students and teachers use the latter to get an indication of their readiness and to see where further revision is required. This means the usually intense revision and focus, as well as the opportunity to iron out any conceptual gaps, will be left out for this cohort of students. To miss this period will put students at a disadvantage and it remains to be seen how this is accommodated at the start of A levels.

What does it mean for Y10 GCSE students?

Year 10 students cover important material from February to June (or July) so there will be a substantial impact on their education. It is likely that schools and teachers will consider this in September (Year 11) to help them catch up. However, doing no schoolwork for possibly 6 months will affect retention and practice of concepts. Work potentially provided by schools for homeschooling over this period will also need oversight by parents and / or a tutor. We would recommend that parents take a proactive approach during this time to ensure their children maintain their level of education – see our blog covering 7 homeschooling tips. Another avenue of support is through online tuition  – see more about this in part 3 of our blog series.

It is important to maintain learning and revision during the lockdown period
It is important to maintain learning and revision during the lockdown period

What will happen regarding GCSE and A level exam marks?

GCSE, A level and AS level students will be awarded a grade by Ofqual which reflects their current school performance. There will be an option to sit an exam early in the next academic year for students who are not happy with this awarded grade. The exam boards will be asking teachers, who know their students well, to submit their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead.

To effect this, teachers will consider a range of evidence and data, including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessments – clear guidance on how to do this fairly and robustly will be provided to schools and colleges. The exam boards will then combine this information with other relevant data, including prior attainment, and use this information to produce a calculated grade for each student, which will be a best assessment of the work they have put in.

The plan is to provide these calculated grades to students by the end of July. In terms of a permanent record, the grades will be no different from those provided in other years. The distribution of grades will follow a similar pattern to that in other years, so that this year’s students do not face an inherent disadvantage due to the current circumstances.

For some students, producing extra course material and assignments will be better than facing the anxiety of exams. However, some schools have already started planning for a mock exam in the summer term (should schools reopen) to provide further evidence of their students’ grades. Click here for more details about grading policies.

What will happen with International Baccalaureate exams?

IB exams will be cancelled for the first time in their history. Assessment scores will be considered, using predictive analytics tools and engaging the 15,000 examiners. The IB intends to release results as planned on 5 July. All student coursework and associated predicted grades will need to be uploaded by 20 April, if not sooner, in order to guarantee delivery of results by 5 July.

For further details regarding International Baccalaureate exams please click here.

International Baccalaureate

My child is not interested in doing Maths or Science for A levels – is there still a need to get to grips with the rest of the GCSE curriculum, now that a guaranteed grade is being offered?

Most schools would have covered the GCSE curriculum, so they should not be covering any new content by February of this academic year. However, students who know already that they would like to do a numerical or scientific related discipline at university should take stock of any concepts that they did find tricky. This may mean doing some revision during the lockdown period. For many students who did not enjoy these subjects, this will be a welcome relief. 

exam revision
Students will need to take stock of possible gaps and how this could affect their education journey.

Is there any news from universities?

University representatives have confirmed that they expect universities to be flexible and do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to higher education. In general, the government’s stance is to ensure affected students can move on as planned to the next stage of their lives, including going into employment, starting university, college or sixth form courses, or an apprenticeship in the autumn.

However, we do advise those students who have chosen their university course to examine the module requirements if they did not complete their A level syllabus in the associated discipline.

Cambridge University
Cambridge University is working to better understand the effects of exam cancellations on new applicants.

Should I still be sending my child with an EHC Plan to school during this period?

Children with education, health and care (EHC) plans, along with those who have a social worker, are classed as vulnerable (up to the age of 25).

Those with an EHC plan should be risk-assessed by their school or college in consultation with the local authority (LA) and parents. This is to determine whether they need to continue to be offered a school or college place to meet their needs, or whether they can safely have their needs met at home. This could include, if necessary, carers, therapists or clinicians visiting the home to provide any essential services. Many children and young people with EHC plans can safely remain at home.

Where parents are concerned about the risk of their child contracting COVID-19, the school or social worker should talk through these anxieties with the parent, following the advice set out by Public Health England.

Local authorities will work with trusts and education settings to ensure that settings are kept open, but in some cases this will not be possible. Local authorities and education settings will make the most appropriate arrangements and talk to parents about this. It may not always be possible for children to attend their usual setting in order to ensure that children and staff are kept safe.

How many hours a day should my child devote to academic activities until he or she goes back to school?

We are the first to recognise that each child has a unique learning style and will therefore devote a different number of hours to any given task.  There are, however, some general guidelines that can be followed, based on my own experience and various other experts:  

2-3 hours a day for EYFS and Key Stage 1

3-4 hours a day for Key Stages 2 and 3

5-8 hours a day for Key Stages 4 and 5

homeschooled boy
Homeschooling can be more effective than school contact time with the right support.

When do schools go back?

The short answer is that no clear date has been set and predicting one would be pure speculation on my part.

There was speculation in the Sunday Times (19 April) that senior ministers had drawn up a three-phase plan to lift the coronavirus lockdown that would see schools reopen as early as May 11. It was suggested that the first pupils invited back would include primary school children and those in years 10 and 12 who are due to sit GCSEs and A levels next year. However, Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, issued a statement shortly thereafter that he could not give a date for when schools will reopen.

The Department for Education (DfE) published a blog on 21 April addressing the question, entitled Schools reopening conditions. It explains that the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), sent a letter to the Secretary of State setting out five conditions to be met before schools should reopen – including social distancing guidelines, access to PPE /  employment protections for teachers and a recognition of the “depleted” teacher workforce.

The DfE has also reiterated its position in the blog about the matter:

“Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has not set a date for schools reopening.

They will remain closed, except for children of critical workers and the most vulnerable children until the scientific advice changes, and we have met the five tests set out by Government to beat this virus.

We will work in close consultation with the sector to consider how best to reopen schools, nurseries and colleges when the time is right so that parents, teachers and children have sufficient notice to plan and prepare.”

With regards to the five tests that need to be passed in order to avoid a second peak of COVID-19, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has summarised them in the following manner: ‘First, that the NHS can continue to cope, second, that the operational challenges can be met, third, that the daily death rate falls sustainably and consistently, fourth, that the rate of infection is decreasing, and most importantly, that there is no risk of a second peak.’

Thus, reopening schools will be a slow and challenging process for all parties involved, under the principle that safety must come first.

What is Bright Heart doing to help during lockdown?

At Bright Heart, we have been closely monitoring developments with respect to the coronavirus (COVID-19) in order to keep our tutors, clients and students safe and well informed.

Our policy since early March has been to encourage the adoption of online tuition to ensure that our student’s one-to-one tuition is not disrupted during this period. We took the decision before Boris Johnson announced lockdown to require tutors to provide online tuition where possible and supported this adoption by offering clients a 10% discount for online tuition. The government does still permit in-person tuition where a student is described as vulnerable, for example, when a student has an EHC plan, but this is still only possible where the tutor is able to travel safely to the student’s home, and nobody in either the tutor’s or student’s household has any COVID-19 symptoms.

For those who are less familiar with online tuition, part 3 of this blog series discusses some of the pros and cons of online tuition and tips for parents using an online tutor.

Did you find this helpful? Please share your thoughts on our Facebook post or get in touch if you prefer!


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdown

mother homeschooling her daughter

One of our directors, an experienced former head teacher, provides some homeschooling tips to help families during lockdown.                 

John Salmon director

In part 1 of this blog series I provide some helpful tips for parents to support their children learning at home

Homeschooling tips for parents during Coronavirus lockdown

Boris Johnson made a bombshell announcement in response to increasing cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) by placing the UK in lockdown on 23 March.

This followed the government’s earlier decision to close schools to most students and cancel GCSEs and A level exams. This has understandably created significant uncertainty for parents and children alike. Children are feeling pressure due to the uncertainty and parents are trying their best to help with all the schoolwork, while also trying to devise fun activities and still have time for their own working requirements.

With schools having been due to resume this week after Easter, we appreciate that many parents could do with some helpful tips and advice at this difficult time. As an experienced teacher, former head teacher, tutor and father, I have used my significant expertise to put together a 3-part blog series to help.

In this first blog, I provide tips and suggested activities and strategies for parents to support their children learning at home. I also provide a list of top resources (both academic and non-academic) that can be used during these difficult times.

In part 2, I attempt to answer some frequently asked questions about the consequences of the lockdown on education in the UK and explain how Bright Heart Education is helping in the circumstances.

In part 3, I outline the benefits of using online tuition to support students at this difficult time.

7 homeschooling tips for parents during lockdown

While parents cannot be expected to substitute trained teachers, they can offer support to their children learning at home by following some tips below. Parents should be careful not to put all the emphasis on academics.  As a matter of fact, the British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP) has pointed out that this is a good opportunity to spend quality time with your children: “Don’t put too much pressure on doing academic work.  Parents and carers aren’t teachers, and it is important to also spend time building relationships, enjoying shared activities and reassuring children.”

1. Plan your day

While providing extra attention for your children at home can be challenging, a little planning will go a long way. Each night, ensure your child has a plan for the following day. This should involve aiming to get up at roughly the same time every day, eating well, exercising and getting some much-needed fresh air. Creating a routine that is exactly like the one at school would be impractical, but it is possible to follow a similar structure, in the sense that you have one subject followed by another, with breaks in between.  This may be done through work provided by the school, your own supervision or by using a private tutor for online lessons (preferably) or face-to-face lessons (where possible) for students with special learning needs who are unable to concentrate online.   

At the same time, despite the benefits of following a daily routine, child psychologists warn that parents should still leave some room for flexibility to avoid pursuing an overly controlled environment. This may lead to more stress and anxiety in children. It is therefore crucial to maintain a healthy balance, which can be achieved through the understanding of your child’s wants and needs. 

2. Maintain education

Maintaining learning during this period is important to keep concepts fresh and create a sense of satisfaction for children. This will also help their confidence when adjusting to the next year of education once they go back to school. A tutor can aid with any online schoolwork set by teachers and help bring it to life (virtual classrooms are unlikely to offer much 2-way interaction). Maintaining engagement is important and is a challenge when homeschooling.  For parents, online tutoring sessions can also be a period of time when their children are being kept busy and not seeking continuous entertainment.

Creating a dedicated workspace can help to avoid distractions and enhance children’s concentration.

mother homeschooling her daughter
A dedicated space for working in the home is best.

3. Keep them entertained

Aside from academics, it is important not to underestimate the power of play.  Infusing children’s life with play not only helps them to relax, but also ensures their well-being and healthy development. Research has highlighted its numerous benefits. These include increasing self-confidence associated with acquiring new skills, improving or maintaining physical and mental health, and stimulating imagination and creativity. Click on the link below to read about all benefits of child’s play:

-> Why play is important

Additionally, keeping your family entertained will help to keep everyone happy and allow parents the chance to focus on some of their own needs – whether work or some downtime.

For more ideas on how to keep your children entertained, please have a look at our blog 9 Nifty Activities for Children during Lockdown.

Moreover, engaging in games as an entire family is a perfect way to create fun, long-lasting memories and to promote family bonding. See the link below to discover some great board games to try:

-> The top ten board games of all time

Monopoly can entertain the family for hours and help keep children's Maths sharp!

4. Keep them active

Although it is undeniable that having to stay at home has led to a significant reduction of our daily activity, it is essential to maintain physical health for children and adults alike. According to Dr Sarahjane Belton, adults should aim to spend 30 minutes of “moderate to vigorous exercises” on a daily basis, whereas children need twice that time. In order to stay healthy and at the same time help your children expel their accumulated energy, use the allowed one form of exercise a day to go outside for a walk, jog or other type of physical activity, whilst still adhering to the social distancing measures. 

To find out more about how to keep children active during lockdown, read the article written by Dr Belton below: 

–> How to keep yourself and your kids active during the lockdown

Alternatively, stay active even indoors by dancing, skipping, doing exercises found on YouTube or other resources like GoNoodle (designed specifically for children), or stretching your muscles in a good old classic game of Twister. 

A daily walk in Nature does much to calm the mind and body.

5. Help them socialise

Whilst the lockdown presents a wonderful opportunity to strengthen family ties, it is paramount for children’s social development that they remain in touch with their peers. Try to organise a video call with your child’s friends or classmates by making use of numerous available platforms, such as Skype, Zoom, Houseparty, WhatsApp of Google Hangouts. However, even though it is likely that children and teenagers might spend increasingly more time using technology, certain rules regarding their screen time should nevertheless be applied. 

6. Make use of free resources on the internet to help

There is no shortage of resources available online. In fact, there are so many resources available that it can be hard to know where to start. To help parents, we have picked our own top 10 list of online resources (see further below). They will assist you in keeping your children engaged whilst they learn, including a couple of resources outlining creative and entertaining non-academic activities at the end of the list. 

7. Don’t be afraid to seek expert advice when you need it

Homeschooling your children is not easy. Even experienced qualified teachers find it difficult to homeschool their own children. So don’t be afraid to ask for help.

For further insight into homeschooling, visit the biggest organisation of its kind in England, Education Otherwise.

Find more strategies and tips from the British Psychological Society below:

-> Coronavirus and UK schools closures:  support and advice for schools and parents/carers 

Alternatively, please get in touch with me or one of Bright Heart’s other directors – whether you are looking for a homeschooling tutor or just need some friendly advice, we are more than happy to help.

Top 10 online resources for children learning at home

Twinkl teaching resources
Gojimo app for KS3 11+ 13+ GCSE A Levels
  1. BBC Bitesize started providing daily lessons for children of all ages on April 20.  They also have a dedicated TV channel full of learning content, podcasts and educational videos.
  1. Seneca is a wonderful website for KS2, KS3, GCSE and A levels. 
  1. Gojimo is a mobile app for revision of GCSEs, A levels, IB, iGCSEs, Common Entrance and several international qualifications. 
  1. The National Literacy Trust provides an online zone for parents who are looking for a variety of activities for their children during school closures.
  1. Khan Academy is a free resource for parents, as well as young and older students, that offers free lessons in a wide range of subjects. Although it is US-based, there is plenty of content that overlaps with UK education.
  1. Twinkl offers thousands of worksheets and activities in Maths, English and Science to teachers, parents, and learners.
  1. Coolmath4kids.com is a great way to keep education entertaining. The website features lessons, quizzes and numerous games to teach children basic Maths.
  1. Hamilton Trust is a UK charity that provides an array of planning and learning resources in English, Maths, and Science for children up to Year 6.
  1. This article highlights 50 creative ideas to have fun with your children and make sure that they will never get bored during the lockdown.
  1. Another helpful article with 59 activities to do at the home to keep children entertained.

For even more help, the Department for Education has a wealth of online resources for home education.

Please see our Part 2 of this blog series: Questions (FAQ) about learning, schools and exams during lockdown where we provide answers to common queries.

Did you find this helpful? Please share your thoughts on our Facebook post or get in touch if you prefer!


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Working with students with autism

Private tutoring for special educational needs (SEN)

Autism is a spectrum condition. Here we look at some considerations when working with these students.                      

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Being aware of certain traits of students with ASC is helpful for tutoring. Here we provide some general tutoring tips.

Working with students with autism

Autism is a spectrum condition, meaning that no two students are the same. However, there are some general tips for parents and tutors to be aware of when working with students with autism.

5 tips for working with students on the autism spectrum

1. Establish a routine and communicate any changes in advance

Ensuring that a child with autism is well prepared is important for parents and tutors. This includes explaining what to expect in a first tutoring session and what to do if an unexpected change occurs. For example, having insight into how the lesson will be structured so your child / student is fully informed is key. Meeting their tutor before formal lessons begin, through a no pressure trial / getting to know you session is very beneficial. Being prepared and knowing whom to expect can be calming for a student with autism. This is also a great way for the tutor to meet their student and get a sense of requirements and needs.

Planning and sticking to a routine is important and can be the difference between a successful or chaotic experience. If you are going to introduce a test or a new way of working, always mention this in advance. Any changes to tutoring schedules should also be communicated in good time.

Private tutoring for special educational needs (SEN)
Structure and routine is important to minimise anxiety for students with ASC

2. Communicate using clear and simple language

Students with autism spectrum condition (ASC) find different aspects of communication and language more challenging. Avoid using sarcasm and idioms as they may take you literally and misunderstand your meaning. Some students will be unable to listen to people speaking for lengthy periods. They will require visuals and gestures to support their understanding or appropriate pauses to allow for processing time. If you have a student that requires visuals, they will need them for all aspects of written and spoken language i.e. their timetable, labels on folders, instructions and lists.

Use your student or child’s name before you address them so they understand you are speaking to them. Do not assume a student has understood you. Ensure you ‘check in’ with that student periodically. Use phrases that require them to repeat back what they have to do or answer direct questions about the topic to check if they have understood it. Be sure to moderate the directness of questions so that they are not always setup with a binary outcome e.g. correct or incorrect. For some students, experiencing failure can evoke intensely negative emotions.

If the student is sensitive to eye contact, start this off gently and do not insist this is reciprocated. Once familiarity increases then look to increase eye contact. Eye contact can be particularly challenging for some students on the spectrum, so a lack of this contact should not be taken personally. However, one-to-one tuition sessions can be hugely advantageous to increasing this aspect of communication.

Puzzles, word searches and ticking off items from their to-do list can be incredibly encouraging, relaxing and soothing for the child.

Even small differences can be detrimental to their learning; so maintain a sense of calm, explore repetitive teachings and begin with engaging communication. You’ll typically find this approach more constructive for the student.

3. Avoid over-stimulation

Students with ASC can become over-stimulated by things that have little impact on students without ASC. This can become overwhelming and means they are unable to learn at the times you want them to. Flexibility from parents and tutors can be invaluable.

Giving the child time means they are not sensing any chaotic rushing. Think carefully about the environment you will be tutoring the child in and where the student will sit. Over stimulation can come from bright lights, traffic noise, a loud ticking clock, a dog barking, a chair made of a particular material or someone’s perfume or aftershave.

If your student can communicate effectively, ask them if where they are sitting works for them. If they are unable to tell you, speak to their parents for insight.

4. Be patient and understanding with social skills and behaviour

Some students with ASC may appear to engage in low-level disruptive behaviour. A student may be humming, tapping, rocking or flapping. This behaviour is called stimming and helps to reduce anxiety. It may be that a student engages in this behaviour in order to help them concentrate. A student may appear abrupt, to lack tact or seem rude when speaking. This is often unintentional and reflects a student’s inability to recognise ‘social norms’ when having a conversation or passing comment. Giving very clear and literal instructions and tasks to do when working together will make it easier.

Some parent intervention may be required; tutors are familiar with this and it can be beneficial for both parties.

5. Follow a person-centered approach

Every student with ASC is different and will face different challenges just like students without ASC. Try not to make assumptions about your students. Observe your student for signs of anxiety and support them in reducing that. Ask the student what works for them. Speak to their parents for insight into what will help them to learn.

Always remain calm and remember your student may not intentionally be being rude so do not take such behaviour personally. Use these opportunities to teach and reiterate conversation skills. No student can learn whilst their anxiety levels are high. Reduce anxiety before attempting to teach.

Receiving one-to-one tuition can be incredibly beneficial for children with autism. Learning solely at school can be tricky with so many children in a class demanding the teacher’s attention, so having this focused time can really help these students with their studies as well as social and emotional skills. For parents peace of mind, think carefully about who you are choosing as your child’s tutor. It is important that both your child and the tutor are able to engage and work together in each session. This is rewarding for both and can make the student (and tutor) feel at ease in subsequent sessions.

It is through parents and tutors working together that the child will get the stability and secure environment to be taught effectively.

Did you find this helpful? Please share your thoughts on our Facebook post or get in touch if you prefer!


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

5 ways to support the mental health of a child with SEN

supporting mental health in a child

Research shows that 1 in 5 young people aged 16-24 experience anxiety or depression at any one time.   

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

As awareness of mental health grows we look at how you can support your child

5 ways to support the mental health of a child with SEN

Mental health may seem to be somewhat of a buzz word these days, but research shows that 1 in 5 young people aged 16-24 experience a common mental illness such as anxiety or depression at any one time1.

Children affected by learning challenges are:

  • 6 times more likely to experience conduct disorder;
  • 4 times more likely to have a diagnosable emotional mental health problem; and
  • Nearly twice as likely to experience a depressive episode.2
supporting mental health in a child
Taking action to talk with someone is always better done sooner rather than later

How can you as a parent support your child with Special Educational Needs?

1. Talk to your child about mental health

One of the best places to start is by talking about mental health to your child. You may discuss feelings and help give your child the language he or she needs to describe their emotions. You may simply ask questions to ascertain what your child is experiencing – are they anxious? Are they having self-esteem issues? Open dialogue will go a long way to making your child feel heard and supported. Make conversations about mental health a normal part of life – anywhere is a good place to talk; in the car, walking the dog or cooking together. Ask open-ended questions and show empathy rather than trying to offer immediate solutions.

2. Give your child your full attention

​When listening, make sure you’re fully present and that your child can feel that they have your undivided attention. Nobody likes to be half-listened to. Ignore or avoid distractions. Maintain eye contact and focus on your child.

3. Familiarise yourself with the signs of poor mental health

Keep in mind that all children are different, but some of the common signs of mental health problems in children include:

  • becoming withdrawn from friends and family
  • persistent low mood and unhappiness
  • tearfulness and irritability
  • worries that stop them from carrying out day to day tasks
  • tearfulness and irritability
  • sudden outbursts of anger directed at themselves or others
  • loss of interest in activities that they used to enjoy
  • problems eating or sleeping3

Look for clues about feelings: listen to the child’s words, tone of voice and body language.

4. If you’re worried about your child’s mental health, get help

Speak to your GP

As a first course of action, we suggest reaching out to your family doctor. He or she will be able to make a clinical assessment and to listen if your child is willing to talk to them. Your GP will also be able to make specialist referrals for therapy for example, where necessary to assist your child in managing their mental health.

Get in touch with your child’s teacher and/or tutors

Schools and teachers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of supporting students’ mental health. It is vital that they are made aware that your child is struggling and they will be able to keep an eye on them during this time and provide much-needed additional support and encouragement.

Reach out to Support Organisations

If you feel that you‘d like additional support, get in touch with one of the following organisations that specialise in this field:

5. Take care of your own mental health

This cannot be overemphasized. Children live what they learn and as challenging as it may often be for us as parents, it is imperative that we model healthy habits and show our children what good emotional regulation and self-care looks like. If you feel stressed out, anxious and overwhelmed, make a point of implementing a self-care routine that will assist in providing you with more balanced living. You can also schedule time with a counsellor or therapist to provide you with perspective. Never underestimate the world of good that feeling heard can do for you (and your child).

References

  1. McManus et al., 2009, according to a report by the Centre for Mental Health 2018, centreformentalhealth.org.uk
  2. Emerson & Hatton, 2007, according to a report by the Centre for Mental Health 2018, centreformentalhealth.org.uk
  3. National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Did you find this helpful? Please share your thoughts on our Facebook post or get in touch if you prefer!


Share this article

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn