20 strategies for getting vulnerable pupils into school during lockdown

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20 strategies for getting vulnerable pupils into school during lockdown

All schools, including our own, have grappled with getting as many vulnerable children into school as possible during lockdown. It has been a strenuous time for both students and staff everywhere however we have been very lucky to rely on our dedicated academy teams and wider school communities to band together and maintain safe and healthy learning environments for our students.

With thanks to Harris Academy Battersea, Harris Boys’ Academy East Dulwich, Harris Academy Greenwich, Harris Academy St John’s Wood, Harris Academy Peckham and Harris Academy Tottenham, here are twenty ideas that have worked for some of our secondary schools.  

Contact, contact and more contact:

  1. From Day One of lockdown, pupils were telephoned every day by the same person to build their trust.
  2. Home visits where necessary to support families and talk to them about the special opportunity to attend school and continue learning with familiar teachers.
  3. Giving tutors and other staff speaking to pupils the freedom to refer them for places in our provision.

Giving pupils who came in a warm welcome and making sure they really like the time they are able to spend with their teachers. Ideas included:

  1. Free breakfast and lunch throughout.
  2. Daily wellbeing, creative, play and sports sessions – and counsellors present at school on the majority of days.
  3. Offering a strong and broad curriculum taught by outstanding specialist teachers that would vary across the week so that the provision felt similar to what pupils were used to in school.
  4. Creating a sense of difference during half term, with holiday camp style activities on offer.
  5. Ensuring one-to-one time with teachers for pupils.

Creating a sense of community:

  1. Asking pupils to help with special projects, such as preparing breakfast boxes or making a rainbow.
  2. Rewards and competitions.
  3. As much consistency of staff as possible, to help build their confidence and their sense of feeling safe.

Reassurance, with various strategies to ensure pupils could trust us with their safety and feel confident they would get outstanding teaching if they came in:

  1. Inviting pupils for a tour, or simply allowing them to have a taster morning to help them see how well everything worked and to relieve any anxiety they were feeling about being in school when everything else was locked down.
  2. Saying ‘yes’ when parents were struggling and got in touch to ask if we could help in some way.
  3. Asking pupils who attended to share their experiences with others.
  4. Using online assemblies to showcase the work going on.

Persuading parents of the value of our sessions by:

  1. Inviting pupils in by phone, often with a member of the Senior Leadership Team making the call to their parents – stressing how pleased we were to be able to offer them one of our limited slots.
  2. Weekly phone calls and emails to remind them of the provision and their children’s entitlement to it.
  3. Speaking to parents/carers who collect breakfasts and delivering food and meals to houses encouraging them to attend.
  4. Sharing data about engagement with online lessons, so parents could see where their children were at risk of falling behind if they did not come into school.
  5. Gaining the support of the children’s social workers to encourage them to come into school.

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