How alternative learning provision can support young learners on the return to school

Written by: Academy21 | Published:

Alternative learning provision allows students to be taught effectively while adhering to social distancing measures and could play a key role as schools emerge from lockdown...

Recent government advice states that schools will soon begin the process of reopening their doors to pupils, although this comes with a new set of challenges faced by teachers, parents and students.

With suggestions of social distancing in the classroom, smaller class sizes, staggered schooling hours and socially isolated pods, there has never been a more appropriate time to consider how synchronous online learning can support schools in delivering more effective blended learning programmes.

During the last decade, it has not been uncommon to hear of overstretched teachers with a rise in responsibilities but a fall in government funding. For many teachers, this has created an environment where they are unable to dedicate the attention needed to vulnerable students.

Pupils with mental health issues, medical problems, or other complex needs then find themselves uncomfortable in the mainstream schooling environment and unable to reach their full learning potential, an issue that will likely be exacerbated by the newly suggested government measures.

Children have now been out of mainstream school education since March 23, raising concerns with parents over their child’s future. As schools begin to reopen, the primary focus is likely to be on the many, ensuring each child is adjusting back into the world of schooling and engaging fully with lessons in this new climate.

Although this is beneficial for the majority of students, the minorities who are being bullied, suffer with anxiety, medical problems or other behavioural issues are potentially left to slip through the net even more so than they did before, missing out on that crucial tailored attention they need to reach their full learning potential.

Alternative learning provision with Academy21

Since 2011, Academy21 have been providing live, high-quality, academically focused alternative provision for schools and local education authorities. For young people who are unable to or struggle to attend mainstream school due to medical, complex mental health or behavioural issues, their education can continue uninterrupted with flexible, cost-effective and academically focused alternative learning provision.

Delivering a broad and balanced curriculum to vulnerable young people, each class is led by an experienced subject specialist. With a maximum of 15 learners per class, learning with Academy21 enables young people to have the tailored attention they need.

Dame Erica Pienaar, Chair of the Academic Advisory Board at Academy21, talks about the philosophy behind Academy21: “Academy21 is founded on an ethos which aims to provide every young person referred to us with the opportunity to achieve and progress. We do this by providing every learner with a balance of educational engagement and academic challenge, and through our focus on excellence in our teaching and learning practice.”

Alternative learning provision also allows students to be taught effectively while adhering to social distancing measures, ensuring a safe education. Pupils are able to learn from their own home, within a socially distanced classroom at school, or at an allocated learning centre.

Learning with Academy21

The method behind teaching with Academy21 models mainstream school practice, supporting young learners towards eventually returning to their school or college to complete their studies. With a curriculum that is underpinned by innovative pedagogy and excellence in teaching practice, Academy21 utilise flexible timetables to cater to the individual learner.

From Key Stage 2 through to Key Stage 5, lessons are delivered according to the child’s tailored timetable via the easy-to-use online classroom. Experienced subject specialists deliver a range of quality learning content using whiteboard activities, audio content, video content and quizzes all to support lesson engagement, with each lesson supported by an online activity that reinforces the learned lesson objectives. After each lesson, homework activities are set, completed online by the student and recorded within the Academy21 system.

Academy21 also has an online lesson archive with library content that can be accessed by pupils 24/7.

Pupils supported by Academy21

Alternative learning provision with Academy21 recognises that education is not a one-size-fits all approach. Although traditional schooling caters well to some students, it may not cater well to the needs of others, stagnating their educational progression and preventing them from reaching their full potential. This can result in seemingly disengaged students, whose negative responses can be misconstrued as bad behaviour. When instead, these students simply do not understand the work at hand or struggle within a traditional schooling environment.

By providing students with a different learning approach that better suits their requirements, this can create better results for both the pupil and for the school. For learners who struggle in the standard classroom setting due to overwhelming anxiety, medical issues or other complexities that mean they refuse to attend school, alternative learning provision can be an effective learning solution.

Every year, Academy21 work with over 1,000 pupils, supporting vulnerable learners with a diverse range of needs, including:

  • Pupils with anxiety disorders
  • Students with challenging behaviour
  • Children with medical needs
  • Teenage mothers
  • Young people in care
  • School refusers

Adjusting to alternative online learning provision

For learners who have only ever experienced a traditional schooling environment, making the switch to alternative online provision can feel like a big change. As experts in alternative provision, Academy21 share some helpful advice and tips to help with the adjustment to online learning:

  • Keep your mind happy
  • Stay engaged with lessons
  • A dedicated workspace
  • Take regular breaks
  • Stay active

Keeping a positive outlook is great for emotional wellbeing and can be done by staying active and embracing mindfulness. We also love hearing feedback from our A21 pupils who have found it easier to maintain a positive attitude since moving from traditional schooling to online learning.

Just like a traditional classroom setting, it is important for learners to participate in lessons as much as they can, asking questions and talking about the topic with peers and their teacher.

Wherever a student is studying from, it is important that it is a quiet space that is organised, free of distractions and available to use at any time. For Academy21 learners, this could be within a classroom, an allocated learning centre, or from home.

Looking at a screen for too long can cause a lack of concentration and tiredness. Pupils should ensure they have plenty of screen breaks throughout the day to stay motivated.

It’s important to keep both our mind and body active throughout the school day, just as you would at a mainstream school. Whether it’s a short walk or a cycle round the block, it is important to keep moving when learning online.


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