Mind the Gap – Step up not catch up

The phrase of the moment seems to be ‘catch up’. It sounds simple until you unpick the complex layers of learning that are the essential life blood of educating a child. What are schools and other education settings catching up on? Some pupils have continued to learn, some have developed profound and useful life skills as part of organising their own learning and some undoubtedly will have missed the point, lost sight of the facts or misunderstood the task.

Now is the time to throw away the paradigm of constant ‘catch up’ for those who are left behind. It is, as ever, those who are disadvantaged, have less parental or other support and who generally believe themselves to be failures that will be highlighted as those that need to ‘catch up’.

Instead of ‘catch up’ I would like to offer a solutions focused way forward. There is funding, there is a summer ahead of us and there are opportunities to take a strategic leap into thinking differently about next steps in learning. We cannot look backwards and capture what is lost. We can, however, use the next few months to focus on learning, the how of learning and not the what of learning and create a readiness for learning that we can build on for years to come. If we tediously try to shoehorn in the so-called lost knowledge we are very likely to lose the already disillusioned and deflate those who have succeeded during the last year. It is not their fault. ‘Catch up’ sounds like we are punishing the learner and their teachers.

Instead, let us have a think about some of the obvious issues we have time now to rethink so that we create a future that is most definitely better than before.  Below are a few of the glaring areas that have needed mending for a long time. How about a fresh look at new approaches and a bit of strategic thinking?

  1. Transition from primary to secondary school – there is a well-researched average dip in attainment of up to 40% from the end of year 6 to the end of year 7. There isn’t much data yet about the consequences for ‘lost learning’ over the past year but I doubt it will be any higher than this. Turning that dip into an upwards curve is an essential element of our highly rated course ‘Crossing the Transition Bridge’ – Seamless learning from primary to secondary school’. We have gathered some great ideas and powerful solutions. A less dramatic but still worrying dip occurs between key stage 1 and 2, we have the answers here too, Creating a transition strategy that builds a continuum of learning from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2 and beyond
  2. Creating a tapestry curriculum – where pupils can make connections across their learning they remember, deepen their understanding and begin to develop higher order thinking skills. Learners need to see the explicit connection between the skills they are learning in English and Maths and how they are applied in every facet of the curriculum and beyond. Have a look at our two courses that create for those with responsibility for embedding these skills with a wealth of innovative and well-researched strategies that work. Enhancing the Role of the Literacy Coordinator – planning a strategy to ensure literacy is woven through the curriculum and Enhancing the Role of the Numeracy Coordinator – looking at where Maths is integral to learning across the curriculum
  3. Metacognition is about learning how to learn and how to think deeply about learning. Where these skills are added to the tapestry a picture emerges that the learner can understand and the learning is strengthened. This requires planning and the opportunities for professional conversations about learning in subject specific contexts and in cross curricular forums. We have just redesigned our two outstanding curriculum courses, Curriculum Futures for the Primary School- Defining the vision and delivering impact and Curriculum Futures for the Secondary School- Defining the vision and delivering impact they both provide outstanding resources, activities and presentations all built on our commitment to research led CPD.
  4. Formative assessment as an essential pedagogy for learning – There is such an imperative to ensure that all teachers have the skills to challenge positively, feedback constructively and allow the learner to understand what he or she can do to make progress, deepen their understanding and learn more. There may be gaps to fill or extra work to do to raise morale or concentrate on relearning some skills; where the teacher or teaching assistant can encourage, promote self-esteem and ignite a passion those gaps will soon become strengths. Spending time now ensuring all staff have the questioning, influencing and listening skills to empower learning and foster progression will reap huge rewards. We have superb off the shelf asynchronous training opportunities for schools to use with their staff. The future is formative and not summative, certainly for now, Formative Assessment – Creating the pedagogy of challenge, progression and deeper learning in the primary school and Formative Assessment – Creating the pedagogy of challenge, progression and deeper learning in the secondary school
  5.  Creating professional learning communities to share, collaborate and innovate – The expertise in a school is amazing but how often do we have the time or the structure to share that professionalism and knowledge more widely? Planning a strategy that ensures positive futures for every learner, every leader, every teacher and every school is essential. We know at Learning Cultures that the most successful way forward is to create a coaching culture that promotes high quality learning conversations and creates opportunities for the sharing and cascading of best practice, learner successes and teacher innovation. Where professional conversations lead the way, change happens. Start your coaching journey with the professionals at Learning Cultures.