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Monday 10 January 2022

Playing Catch Up | Helping With Your Primary School Child’s ‘Lost Learning’

“Lost learning” is a term that has been thrown around a lot for the past year. Since being in lockdown, the government have been very keen to stress how important it is to help the millions of children catch up on the lost hours in the class room. A lot of valuable time has been lost and this generation, particularly the younger ones, have suffered setbacks in their academic progress, their social development and most importantly their mental health.
Whilst most of my regular readers will know and understand the importance of learning through play, planning to children's interests  and making sure that we are planning and teaching creatively in a child-led way in order to make learning fun, (and therefore more memorable!) rather than focusing on rote learning and memorising of facts - it is part and parcel of the current education system that there are certain skills that children will need in order to progress smoothly throughout their school life. 

Today, we have a guest post from Daniel Grabowski, a qualified Teaching Assistant who is currently working alongside primary aged  children in the aftermath of the covid lockdowns, helping them to make sure that they are having positive learning experiences at school without unnecessary added pressures. In this post, Daniel discusses how you can help your child at home....

The Department for Education have had all sorts of ideas to help your children catch up: short-lived talks of extending the school day, even shorter-lived talks of summer school and last year the ‘recovery curriculum’ prioritising the core subjects. They’re not needed.

Since schools have been back in full-swing (for the most part) it’s amazing at how just having things back to normal again has helped. But schools are only fighting half the battle in educating the pupils. Parents pick up the other half at home.

As daunting as that might sound if you don’t know the difference between passive and active sentences or how to long divide, helping your children at home is a lot easier than you think it is. You don’t need to be perfect. You wouldn’t expect them to be, would you?

So here are 4 easy ways that will go a very long way to helping your child’s education and their emotional well-being too.

4 ways to help with your child's education: 

Daily Reading

Reading is a universal skill. The ability to read helps with everything, even maths. You could be brilliant at maths but fail the test because you can’t read the question. You’d be surprised at how common it is in schools when children are held back by their inability to read.

You can help your child out massively by listening to them read just for 20 minutes every day. Now that’s not just having them sit there and read their school book to you while you’ve got one eye on the television, there’s more to it than that.

Sit down with them. Listen to them, help out with a tricky word or two and then just ask them one or two questions about what they’ve just read: what happened? What do you think will happen next? Why do you think that character did that? These questions will help your child develop their comprehension skills and get them thinking beyond a text.

I can’t stress enough how helpful this can be for a child. It helps to get them thinking critically, make connections in other subjects and gives them confidence. You’d be amazed at how much progress they can make in reading if you do it every day too.

(Fro younger children, have a look at our guide to phonics post)

Times Tables Practice

Learning your times tables is a tricky one. It’s a lot of numbers to remember. You need those rapid recall facts as you get older as mental maths generally comes in pretty handy.

Pick a times table and there are plenty of ways to practice. You can spend as little or as long as you want doing it too, as long as you are consistent. You could have pop quizzes in the car or while they’re getting ready for school. You could get some post-it notes and get them to write it down as quickly as possible. There are some catchy songs on YouTube; a quick Google search will bring up plenty of fun and free activities and games (topmarks.co.uk in particularly has some great resources).

If you’re willing to pay, there is a dedicated resource called Times Tables Rockstars (ttrockstars.com). Your child may be part of it in their school already, but if not you can sign them up at home for less than £8 for a year. It has games, competitions, worksheets and incentives that engage children.

The Dreaded Homework

Homework can always be a major cause of stress at home but it doesn’t need to be. Maths, English or spellings homework should always be something that is achievable within a set amount of time.

Keep a consistent time slot for it (preferably not Sunday night just before bed) where you can be available to support your child should they need it. One night after school would probably be the best time, depending on your schedule. It will help to embed what they’re learning in the classroom and it will give you a sense of their academic strengths and weaknesses.

One key thing about homework I would stress is that these tasks should take no longer than half an hour, so spend no longer than that time on it whether you’re finished or not. Your teacher will appreciate that you’ve attempted it, while the stress of battling through a difficult homework task to completion wouldn’t be beneficial for your child.

Talk to Them

For almost two years the world has been struggling with this pandemic, and it’s easy to forget the effect it has had on our children when on the surface they can seem so quick to bounce back. They have worries just like we do. Their troubles may seem trivial to you but to them they’re serious.

Children can find it hard to open up outright about their worries but you can make it easier if you ask them. Keep it relaxed and informal; go for an ice cream or play a game with them and just let them talk. Ask them about school, their worries and their hopes. They may tell you nothing, they might tell you everything. But at the very least you’ll get a sense of how they’re feeling.

The DfE and schools will be worrying about data and SATs results this year and will be piling plenty of pressure on these children (particularly those in exam years) to perform. You don’t need to add to that. For schools statistics mean everything, but for your child a poor grade isn’t the end of the world. Encourage you children and reassure them; the best way to help your children is simply by being there for them.

Daniel Grabowski is currently a Teaching Assistant with over 8 years of experience in a number of roles in Primary education.

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