How are alternative provision providers supporting students through the pandemic?

In week six of lockdown, we explore how the alternative provision sector is supporting students through these unprecedented times. Educate speaks to James Madine, chief executive officer of Progress Schools, to find out more: 

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

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

During this time, parents and students have access to individual google classroom virtual learning environments where resources can be shared and uploaded. This approach limits paperbased packs to avoid the possibility of cross-contamination. 

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

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

So far, the main issues we have 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, our main focus has been ensuring constant communication has been maintained with our students on a daily basis to ensure they feel safe and supported. This is being achieved through via media platforms including SMS, email and phone. 

We have also ensured that we have a consistent approach across our 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 School have showed incredible compassion and diligence in pulling together to ensure that our students and their families are consistently supported throughout.  

Our 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, we are supporting families in financial hardship by providing them with supermarket gift cards/vouchers. Unfortunately, as an independent school, we are not eligible for free school meal funding and therefore the current national voucher scheme. We have, however, donated all left-over food to Foodbank or the homeless once a week. 

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


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