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.

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9 nifty activities to survive lockdown with your children

fun coloured window with hearts

It can be tricky to keep children entertained and focus on one’s own work. Here are some fun activities! 

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Need inspiration to keep your children entertained during lockdown? Here’s a roundup of 9 fun & easy activities.

9 nifty activities to survive lockdown with your children

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an almost global lockdown to slow the spread of the virus. Schools are largely closed and many of us are working from home. This means that we’re spending a lot of time with our partners and/or children. It can be tricky to keep children entertained and focus on one’s own work. It’s easy to fall into the trap of letting children watch TV or scroll online for hours on end, but the little ones in particular are bound to become restless as the days go by.

Below are some fun activities you can do with your younger children (or allow your older children to do themselves) during lockdown:

Lockdown Idea #1

Let your children paint numbers 1-1 on ordinary garden stones (or you can use prepared coloured cards).  Hide the numbers 1 to 10…around the garden or around the house and let them play Number Fun Hide ‘n Seek! (You can give younger children clues as to where to look that correspond to each number, for example:  “1 is hidden in or near an appliance that we have one of (e.g. the fridge) 2 is hidden in a room with two beds in it…” etc. ). This will also be a good practice for an Easter egg hunt for Sunday the 12th of April.

Lockdown Idea #2

This will keep the kids calm for a little while – invite them to read or listen to an audio book in an easy, home-made under table hammock using blankets or sheets knotted above a sturdy tabletop as shown above.

Lockdown Idea #3

Have a Lockdown Disco one evening – print tickets and invite your family to have some fun while you play DJ. Suggest each member of the family makes a half-hour playlist, dim the lights and get your groove on! Or try online dance classes and learn a routine.

Lockdown Idea #4

Take virtual tours

The museums and art galleries may be closed but if your teenager wants to expand their horizons, there are now virtual tours of thousands of the world’s most important museums, including the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Guggenheim in New York. The tours are so good it’s like you are actually wandering through the corridors and you can zoom in to view any masterpieces you fancy. Look up the museums’ websites for more details. 

One such example is the National Videogame Museum. Your child can create a Pixel Art character or design their own arcade cabinet with these fun activities to play at home: https://www.thenvm.org/nvm-at-home

Lockdown Idea #5

fun coloured window with hearts

Order tissue paper from Amazon (or simply use any coloured paper you have on hand) and let your children cut these rainbow hearts out by hand. So worth it for adding a splash of brightness to windows and fun to make too!

Lockdown Idea #6

Grow a windowsill garden

Just because they are cooped up inside doesn’t mean children can’t keep learning about the natural world. Inspire a love of nature by helping them grow some easy flowers and veg. To get fast results, order cornflower or pot marigold seeds online, which germinate in as little as two weeks.

Alternatively, help them grow their own salad veg by planting quick-sprouting radishes or cress. A fruit carton, cut in half, with holes in the bottom or even an old welly boot will do the trick if you don’t have any pots. 

Lockdown Idea #7

The Animal Name Game exercises both body and mind. Each player should think of an animal and tell the others a fact about it.

The other players must try and guess the animal, with a maximum of three facts per person to guess.

Players should continue until the group has cycled through five animals each, taking inspiration from the outdoors where possible. For those in a flat, let the participant use Google animal 3D to search for the animal in Google and display it in augmented reality (AR) and let the others try and work out which animal they are looking at once they provide a fact.

Lockdown Idea #8

Paper Crafts are simple and easy to make and these Moving Fish provide extra entertainment value (let the kids put on a puppet show for you afterwards to extend this activity) – older children can also help younger siblings with this activity. Watch the How To video here: https://youtu.be/UmZgsnY8fMQ

Lockdown Idea #9

A fun activity in 5 minutes! All you need is a sock, plastic bottle and a bit of washing-up liquid with water to help while away hours engaged in sensory play in the fresh air or even blow bubbles out of your flat window. Credit to #TheDadLab

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Homeschooling your child with special educational needs: pros and cons

homeschooled boy

We outline some typical pros and cons to be aware of for parents considering homeschooling their child with SEN.

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Considering homeschooling your child with Special Educational Needs (SEN)? We outline the potential advantages and disadvantages…

Homeschooling your child with special educational needs: pros and cons

homeschooled boy
Homeschooling your child presents some unique opportunities and challenges

For parents considering homeschooling their child with special educational needs (SEN), we outline some typical pros and cons to be aware of.

Note that if your child attends a special school which was arranged by your local authority, you’ll need the council’s permission to homeschool your child. You do not need the council’s permission if your child attends a mainstream school, even if they have an education, health and care (EHC) plan.

Potential Advantages

1. Personalised, flexible learning

Homeschooling gives you the opportunity to create a tailor-made education for your child; one that suits his or her unique learning needs.

2. One-to-one teaching is very effective

Your homeschooled child can make more progress with less teaching time when they are supported with one-to-one teaching; a school day’s worth of learning may take place within two hours of focused teaching. A tutor is an ideal way to incorporate this support. This also applies to online tutoring if this is an option you wish to explore with your tutor.

3. Fewer distractions in a home setting

With no noise or distraction from classmates, which can sometimes negatively impact on your child’s concentration and performance, a home setting provides the distinct advantage of a focused environment

4. Application of learning into everyday life

From cooking to paying the household bills, to budgeting, and dealing with challenges, a key strength of homeschool learning is the way that children can learn to apply what they are learning to real life. With this relevance, learning takes on a whole new meaning, going from simply absorbing different pieces of information to developing fundamental skills to survive successfully in the future.

5. Freedom from peer pressure and bullying

When teaching your child at home, you don’t have to be as concerned about the harmful effects of peer pressure or the devastating effects of bullying. Your child will be assured of a safe and secure environment in which to learn and focus on growing into a happy, confident individual.

6. More organised and/or structured socialisation

Since socialisation will have to be more organised and/or structured, a home-schooled child can meet people who share their interests and hobbies rather than merely their age, and have the opportunity to get involved with a range of extra-curricular activities.

Potential Disadvantages

1. Homeschooling is a significant time commitment

Any parent leading a homeschooling education for their child with SEN will likely have to make a significant time commitment, especially if their child’s needs are more complex. The parent(s) will need to carry out a myriad of tasks. Tasks can include organising and teaching lessons, making a timetable, preparing visits, resources and field trips, joining local homeschooling groups, and making plenty of arrangements with other homeschooled children and/or extra-curricular activities for socialisation.

2. The cost

While a home education will tend to be cheaper than paying fees at a private school, parents who opt to homeschool their children will incur additional costs compared to a state school education. Parents may need to hire private tutors to help, which can be expensive, depending on the amount of tutoring required. If a parent has to give up his or her job to become a homeschool teacher, there are also high costs in terms of lost earnings.

3. Lack of teaching diversity and specialised skills

A homeschooled child will not usually have opportunities to learn from such a diverse range of skilled backgrounds as are found in a school setting, with specialist teachers and advisors. This is especially true if a child has special educational needs and requires expert teaching and care.

4. Reduced socialisation opportunities

Whilst a parent may welcome the chance to better direct their child’s interaction with other children, homeschooled children will generally have less opportunity to socialise with their peers. This does require parent’s to be proactive in making suitable arrangements to keep their homeschooled child engaged with other children.

5. Less structured routine

Attending school provides a structured routine for children, with a set timetable and school hours. A drawback of homeschooling can be this loss of routine, depending on how the homeschooling is structured.

Potential advantages and disadvantages depend to a large extent on you and your child’s unique circumstances and how you envisage providing your child with a home education. Making use of a suitably qualified tutor to complement a parent’s homeschooling efforts can make a significant difference to a child’s educational journey.

An experienced tutor will not only support you as a parent and free up some of your time, but is also a worthwhile, cost-effective investment in supporting your child with special educational needs as they learn. With the right tutor, you can enjoy the benefits of homeschooling, with less of the drawbacks. Get in touch with us today for your obligation-free consultation.

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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

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In-person nasen training workshop

In person training with nasen

In this article, we provide some insight about our recently held nasen in-person training event.                  

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

We discuss our recently held in-person training event, which was presented by nasen.

Our training relationship with nasen

A lack of tutor training was a key shortcoming observed by Ryan in working with various tutoring agencies before launching Bright Heart. This was especially concerning when working with students with learning challenges. In launching Bright Heart, we were determined to put this right.

We approached nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs) to help provide training to our tutors, due to its stellar reputation over >25 years supporting SEN (special educational needs) practitioners with training and resources. 

Nasen produced a training course exclusively for Bright Heart, comprising 4 webcasts (see here for topics) and a detailed written test. The aim of the course was to ensure that our tutors are adequately prepared to meet the individual learning needs of our students.

We recently complimented the online training course with an in-person training workshop facilitated by Michael Surr, nasen’s educational development officer.

In-person training workshop

nasen training
nasen's Michael Surr illustrating his point

We held our tutor in-person training workshop at a Wimbledon hotel on Saturday 28 September. Following an early start, tutors were welcomed on arrival with tea and coffee, before an opening address by Simon.

Michael then proceeded to engage the tutors with a very entertaining and interactive session during the rest of the morning, with the aims being to:

  • Provide an update on SEND news and developments;
  • Develop an understanding of mental health and person-centred working; and
  • Provide tutors with practical strategies to further enhance their one-to-one tuition.

The session included tutors taking part in a number of interesting group exercises and sharing their own tutoring experiences with the group. 

We also watched a very interesting video on the adolescent brain by Dr Andrew Curran, a neurobiologist. This helped to illustrate the science behind the Bright Heart Approach and what makes it so effective for our students.  He explained how the teenage years are characterised by excess dopamine levels (relative to serotonin) and how providing emotional support can help the brain to function optimally (by optimising the levels of dopamine produced). This is because the limbic emotional brain is responsible for 93% of dopamine secretion. Or to put it simply, “if you have someone’s heart, their minds will come with”.

Ryan then concluded the session by emphasising Bright Heart’s vision and the importance of implementing the Bright Heart Approach. He also acknowledged the tutors for their invaluable contributions in successfully putting this into practice.

Tutors then enjoyed a light lunch where they were able to spend time getting to know each other and sharing ideas on how best to implement some of the strategies covered during the morning.

Some tutors then joined Simon and Ryan for a well-earned afternoon beverage at a nearby pub.

The feedback from tutors was all very positive, with everyone thoroughly enjoying the hands-on activities and getting to meet and learn from their peers.

Find a well-trained tutor to help your child

Bright Heart’s tutors are all required to complete online training and encouraged to compliment this by actively participating in periodic in-person training workshops and other events.

Please get in touch to talk to us about how one of our well-trained, caring tutors could be perfect for your child!


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Our nasen tutor training course

student doing online training course

In this article, we provide some insight from our nasen training course, produced exclusively for Bright Heart’s tutors.                  

Simon McQueen

We explain why we asked nasen to help train our tutors, discuss the course and provide insight from our tutors’ test answers.

Why did we ask nasen to help train our tutors?

The lack of tutor training was a key shortcoming observed by Ryan in working with various tutoring agencies. This was especially concerning for tutors working with students with learning challenges. 

One of Bright Heart’s main goals is to improve the quality of tuition for students who would benefit most from a more nurturing approach. We approached nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs) to help achieve this, due to its stellar reputation over >25 years supporting SEN practitioners with training and resources.

In meeting nasen’s education team, we were surprised to find that no other tutoring agency had met with them before. We therefore commissioned nasen to produce an online training course exclusively for Bright Heart before even hiring our first tutor

The training course comprises 4 webcasts (as shown below) and a detailed written test. The aim of the course is to ensure that our tutors are adequately prepared to meet the individual learning needs of our students.

Webcast 1: The Current Context of SEND

This provides a brief overview of the legislative context of SEND (special educational needs and disability) in England. It considers the key principles of the Code of Practice (2015), followed by the models of disability. The current definition of SEND is also discussed.

The current context of SEND

Webcast 2: The 4 broad areas of need

This covers the four main divisions of SEND according to student need, being:

  • Communication and Interaction
  • Cognition and Learning
  • Sensory and / or Physical
  • Social, Emotional and Mental Health

The webcast also considers how support and provision works, discussing the graduated approach and general strategies to consider for students.

4 broad areas of SEND

Webcast 3: Person-centred working

This defines person-centred working and how it should inform all interaction with students. It also explains how it should be used in conjunction with the Bright Heart Approach. Our heart-based approach focuses on the whole student and building rapport with warmth, before addressing academic needs.

Person-centred working

Webcast 4: Specific needs and strategies

This webcast provides a good examination of some specific SEN, including dyslexia, autism and social, emotional and mental health needs. It explains how understanding a student’s needs and considering related strengths and appropriate strategies helps to improve tutoring. Lastly, it discusses general strategies of engagement to add to a tutor’s tools for effective tuition.

SEND tutoring strategies

The nasen training course test

Bright Heart’s tutors are required to pass a detailed written test covering the nasen training course. The test comprises 20 questions requiring careful consideration from tutors. The focus is on applying the course material to practical learning situations. A selection of the questions posed are:

  • How might adopting the social model of disability benefit your work?
  • How could person-centred tools be used as part of the graduated approach?
  • Imagine that you are working with a young person that is being uncooperative. How might you go about trying to engage them?
  • Why is care needed when using labels to describe needs e.g. dyslexia?

Interesting insights provided by our tutors

Our tutors demonstrated their full understanding of the course material through their test answers. Reviewing these answers provided some interesting insights into their approach to tuition. Answers took into account the Bright Heart Approach, specific tools and guidance provided by the nasen training, as well as tutors’ own practical experience and other relevant training and qualifications.

A selection of helpful and insightful extracts from tutors’ answers to the questions above included:

  • "Adopting the social model is paramount to any educator's practice... Adherence to the model means looking at each one of my tutees as a unique human being, whose feelings, needs and learning style differ from those of any other human being. The Bright Heart model is quintessentially social, and relies on creating an empathetic rapport with the tutee in order to nurture not only the learner but the sentient being who has feelings, hopes, wishes and opinions of his or her own. ..."
  • "Many of the tools promote information gathering, and encourage an exploration of the young person’s world: how they experience their learning. This leads to both assessment of needs and also a recognition of what is useful to include in planning. Other tools promote review and reflection and can be used to indicate what needs changing or adapting as you go along."
  • "... Listening to the person, showing concern for their feelings, can often deal with the root of the problem, and not only the outward manifestation, which can only worsen if left untouched. Without attempting to solve the problems in people's lives, or to intervene in them in any way, simple listening and caring can help to build a healthy relationship with our tutees. Even if we manage to get a person to collaborate under a punitive approach, the fact that they are doing it under duress will only make it a short-term remedial measure. The Bright Heart approach is based on caring and understanding of tutees, not coercive measures which may assure compliance, but damage rapport, and, most importantly, fail to foster lifelong learners."
  • "Because every individual is different and they may not "fit" the dyslexic label as simply as one might expect - e.g. showing maybe one of the characteristic signs rather than all. Dyslexia is a spectrum condition, and also can occur comorbidly with other learning difficulties. Lastly, using the label may down play their strengths, such as creativity and their natural ability to see the bigger picture of concepts and problems."

Find a well-trained tutor to help your child

Bright Heart is pleased that its tutors have embraced their training and demonstrated their thorough understanding of it through their test answers. We plan to complement online training with in-person nasen training. Bright Heart’s directors have already received in-person training from nasen. We will write more about this in a future blog. 

Please get in touch to talk to us about how one of our well-trained, caring tutors could be perfect for your child!


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