Research School Network: Supporting children to make up for missed classroom teaching – part 3 Reflections of a KS2 practitioner

Supporting children to make up for missed classroom teaching – part 3

Reflections of a KS2 practitioner

Read parts 1 and 2 of this blog series

I joined my primary school in September 2015 which coincided with the first year of the rollout of the new primary curriculum. I was teaching a year 6 class trying to get them to reach the new end of KS2 expectations in one year! I wasn’t successful; I could not catch up the content of a full key stage in just one year.

As a school we have worked hard over the following years to correct this and, as many other schools, addressed staff abilities of teaching the new content and assessing pupils’ understanding of them. It wasn’t a quick and easy process – changes of roles in leadership, developing schemes of learning and ongoing CPD – but we got there.

Why is my reflection on this relevant? With schools now fully open for the majority of students, there will be teachers who, like me in 2015, find that they are faced with students with learning gaps.

While I can see similarities now compared to 2015 in terms of staff, student and parental anxieties about these gaps’, I am also hugely positive that this time it will be different. This time the content is not new’, learning has continued, albeit not exactly in the way it would have with the children physically in front of us. And so it becomes a case of adaptation, informed by careful planning. Here are my reflections for how this could be enacted using the three tiered sections of the EEF guide to supporting school planning.

1. Teaching

As English lead, over time I have understood the importance of making the full curriculum clear and explicit to all staff. A year 3 teacher should be aware of the expectations and the content of the curriculum covered previously in KS1. So rather than a new CPD focus for 2021/22 schools need to consider how staff will revisit previous aims/​objectives and providing an opportunity to consider what could be trimmed to allow re-teaching of key content.

Having deep subject knowledge and a flexible understanding of the content being taught is clearly important. EEF guidance reports have been useful for me as English lead in identifying approaches and I have often signposted staff to the relevant reports such as Preparing for literacy, Improving literacy in KS1 and Improving literacy in KS2.

Staff have developed their abilities of explicitly teaching the age related content specific to their year groups but the curriculum also enables revisiting of content from previous year groups, either explicitly or implicitly. A good year 6 teacher should be able to switch from teaching the complexities of using a colon correctly to reminders of when commas in a list are appropriate.

It will be important next year to differentiate between learning that has been forgotten due to extended absence from the classroom and material that has not been learnt properly. Targeted diagnostic assessments in the form of lowstakes quizzes and recaps have the benefit of identifying gaps in learning and informing teaching without creating workload for staff and children.

On the back of such assessment we can then begin to ask questions about exactly what learning has been lost or misunderstood and whether we deem it essential enough to re-teach that material to the whole group, or move on?

As an example, our school approach to writing involves at first teacher demonstration followed by guided practice and independent practice. In our writing sessions the teacher will teach a pupil how to construct sentences using a particular grammatical device, punctuation or vocabulary choices and break it up into small steps. The teacher initially thinks aloud’ while identifying the focus of the sentence/​paragraph to model this process to the pupil. They then give the pupils the opportunity to practice this skill. The focus points in September 2021 may, based on diagnostic assessment, may in fact be a re-visit from previous year group content, rather than continuing on with the preassigned curriculum content.

2. Targeted interventions

Periods of remote learning have taught us just how innovative and creative teachers can be in delivering learning from afar, and also how learners can be resourceful and independent. Uninterrupted high-quality teaching should reduce the need for extra support, but it is likely that some pupils will require structured, targeted interventions to make progress.

We will continue to allow pupils to access different platforms within the classrooms which have proved beneficial during the periods of remote learning [Digital Technology GR]. During school closures, all KS2 pupils were given logins to a reading platform which tested their reading speed and comprehension. This will continue to be used with all pupils, but will also form the basis of additional focus with small group or directed TA group work. Considering how classroom teachers and teaching assistants provide targeted academic support will similarly be a focus area for CPD [Making best use of TAs].

3. Wider aspects

Firstly, when considering social and emotional learning [SEL GR], if there is any flexibility within the school for staff movement I would consider the benefits of this. Moving staff up’ in primary with their group of pupils could be helpful, not only to have greater insight into what concepts were covered and mastered and where there may be others which need revisiting or teaching explicitly, but also to continue those personal links with pupils. This would also support in sustaining parental engagement and reinforcing behaviour routines.

If we are tweaking aspects of the curriculum or who is delivering it, then there needs to be real consideration around training days and other CPD opportunities that will be created to help staff. Staff may be comfortable and confident within a particular year group or phase, however just as there will be a focus on filling gaps in pupils’ knowledge this expertise’ will be crucial as they are asked to work within another year group or phase. Transition points in the curriculum (EYFS – KS1, KS2 – KS3 for example) will need a clear focus and so it is vital that communication is taking place and is honest and open between staff within schools and across schools.

Richard Hill
Academy Improvement Leader for The Consortium Academy Trust
Evidence Leader in Education for Huntington Research School

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