How are alternative provision providers supporting students through the pandemic?

During lockdown Educate spoke with James Madine, chief executive officer of Progress Schools to explore how the alternative provision sector is supporting students through these unprecedented times.

The approach at Progress Schools has been to be as flexible and ‘fleet of foot’ as possible in ensuring that they provide learners with a consistent, stable place and/or opportunity in which to learn.

Progress Schools have provided home learning packs to each student with bespoke and customised targets for each learner. Further to this, they have provided a number of additional online resources to support students during this difficult period, both from an academic and wellbeing perspective.

Parents and students have access to individual Google Classroom virtual learning environments where resources can be shared and uploaded. This approach limits paper–based packs to avoid the possibility of cross-contamination.

The group of schools also have a range of online resources that they utilise in order to support disengaged students at the start of their referral to us as a method to improve participation and progress before attendance at the school building itself (normally for socially anxious students).

For year 11 students, they can access virtual careers advice and guidance through designated staff at CareersInc, to support them in making their next steps into further education or employment.

So far, the main issues faced as an organisation have been ensuring that communication between both students and parents/carers remains timely, transparent and efficient, especially within such a fluctuating and ever-changing educational and political landscape.

Like many schools, safeguarding during this period can be problematic, however, the school’s main focus has been ensuring constant communication has been maintained with its students on a daily basis to ensure they feel safe and supported. This is being achieved through through media platforms including SMS, email and phone.

Progress Schools have also ensured that they have a consistent approach across its schools to ensure that students are evidencing their accomplishments whilst learning from home and that assessment is taking place and monitored.

The wonderful team at Progress Schools have showed incredible compassion and diligence in pulling together to ensure that students and their families are consistently supported throughout.

The students have been provided with toolkits, resources and online advice and guidance for them and their families through the Young Minds charity.

Staff even have photos on their email signatures with straplines such as #heretohelp to provide familiarity and encouragement to both parents/carers and students at this unsettling time.

Furthermore, they are supporting families in financial hardship by providing them with supermarket gift cards/vouchers.

Unfortunately, as an independent school, Progress Schools are not eligible for free school meal funding and therefore the current national voucher scheme.

Anxiety and uncertainty are two key emotions the students will be most likely feeling. Remote learning has been a global approach to adapting to this situation for educational providers. However, many of its students have unreliable internet connections, unstable home residences, and other disruptions, and this will be extremely challenging for learners.

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