Tes highlights Nacro Education Centres in an article by Kate Parker, reporting on the disadvantage gap for vulnerable learners who are being hit hard by the Coronavirus crisis. The article outlines the challenges they face, how our staff are stepping up to the challenge of supporting them – and the unexpected ways in which in which learners are engaging more than ever.
“Coronavirus has highlighted the inequalities with our young people working from home: the disadvantage gap is never more stark than when they are not in the classroom,” says Amber Orsborn-Smith, Nacro’s curriculum and innovation manager.
“Working from home has compounded issues that were already there: mental health, difficulty engaging, tech poverty: we normally overcome those in the classroom and in our centres. We are working with parents, carers, local authorities and social workers to ensure that our learners are not any more disadvantaged under COVID-19 then they have to be.”
Simon Ashton, who runs Nacro’s Boston and Wisbech centres, says that those conversations really enable staff to target those who need extra support.
“It’s a change for all of us – but for learners who have struggled in the past to even engage face-to-face in a centre, doing it from home is so difficult. Each individual learner has their own challenges, and this situation has bought up different challenges for each of them,” he says.
“When it comes to teaching and learning, it’s business as usual, despite any tech poverty,” he adds.
“We’ve had a blended approach to learning,” continues Amber Orsborn-Smith. “We continue to track progress because we want to maintain our high standards regardless of the fact that they may be more disadvantaged being at home,” .
And actually, engagement levels are higher than ever, due to the strong relationships that Nacro’s staff foster with students.
“We provide a huge amount of support to these young people, quite a bit more than they’d imagined,” she says.
Some of them won’t have parents who say 'well done' or who believe them. Having that from us – even over the phone – is crucial.
Simon Ashton continues: “If you haven’t got other support networks contacting you on a weekly basis, but you have got Nacro who will contact at least once a week, then the opportunity to speak to that person becomes more attractive.
“We have a real, personalised approach with them, we have their interests at heart and we want them to make progress. We are keeping expectations high, telling them they can achieve – that’s key. Some of them won’t have parents who say ‘well done’ or who believe them. Having that from us – even over the phone – is crucial.
“If we hadn’t had those relationships with them before this situation, maybe the phone calls wouldn’t have been so engaging. But they really value the staff, and they are grateful for the calls. Yes it’s a new way of working but actually so far, so good. It’s so inspiring to see the work our staff and students are doing, despite the odds.”