5 ways we created a catch-up curriculum that worked

A lot was made of how teachers would need to help close learning gaps that lockdown would bring – here's how one school set about doing just that
7th October 2020, 12:21pm


5 ways we created a catch-up curriculum that worked


Across the globe, schools resonate with excited voices of students and teachers alike.

Educators across the planet will have had a multitude of priorities on their minds as they returned to their classrooms, not least, "How can I catch my students up?"

Before the school closed for the summer, we, as the leadership team, were hard at work preparing for the September return and how we could ensure students had the best chance possible to close the gap on the lost learning remote learning had created - despite teachers best efforts of course.

Below are some of the details that we have put in place and how they are working.

1. Transitional notes between colleagues

Clear and concise notes about the class lay the groundwork about the objectives that needs to be covered first.

These were structured so that a profile was built on each child. It detailed exact areas of strengths and weaknesses for individuals in order to inform planning when we returned for the new year.

It helped teachers prepare their class materials, so activities were personalised for the needs of each individual student.

These notes, along with detailed discussions that were scheduled as online meetings, prepared our teachers for what to expect. This led to planning that would provide the needed strategies for appropriately challenging work.

By sharing transitional notes, we were also able to provide a consistent and stable plan across our early years, lower school and upper school.

Therefore, regardless of age, and owing to the fluid communication between teachers, each student received reliable and consistent learning that suited their level.

2. Reviewing skills from previous years

Schools will always have a need to review objectives from the previous year.

Revisited objectives are essential for any school in catching their pupils up to the age-related expectations.

With the help of the transition notes, as well as any assessments that were completed during lockdown, we were able to identify areas of weakness so that they could be addressed immediately.  

3. Interventions for specific needs

Carefully timetabled interventions have been structured to address specific needs across our school.

By using the time of the SEND lead and various additional support staff, we have been able to provide our most vulnerable students with a window of opportunity to accelerate progress in much-needed areas.

This means skills, such as speech and language or focus techniques, can be developed in a safe and nurturing environment.

4. Setting abilities to help focus on key areas

This has been one of the tougher strategies for us to use while returning to in-person learning.

We would normally have sets for different subjects across different classes and areas of the school. Unfortunately, the new normal has restricted us to our own classes throughout the day.

We haven't let that deter us in our drive for appropriate challenge, though.

For our lower school students, we have continued to challenge our children in more creative ways: for example, having a gifted and talented child join a more advanced age group with the use of an iPad.

This was an initiative that started while working virtually. Then, because of its success, we transitioned the practice into the classroom on return to school.

This has meant that students are continually challenged while adhering to the safety measures we have worked so hard to implement.

5. Baseline assessments

From June, we had set ourselves an expectation that we would form baseline assessments on the children early.

We put a lot of consideration into the stress that it could cause, so approached this in the most comforting way we possibly could. In order to do this, we presented the assessments in a less formative way to remove any stress or stigma that the students may feel.

Having given baseline assessments, we could then work on which areas the classes, as well as individuals, most needed.

This is a hugely beneficial strategy that provides teachers with concrete evidence of where the gaps lie so they can be addressed.

How it's helped

We have now been back into school for over a month. We have implemented our strategies and fallen into the routines that our students thrive on. These steps have helped us as a school.

They have quickly and efficiently identified areas that our teachers need to focus on and have helped us create clear lesson plans that develop our children in the most effective way.

We have received consistently positive feedback from our parents and celebrated our successes among the staff and with the children.

The global lockdown may have had an impact on every child throughout the world. However, I can say with confidence, that our well thought out catch-up strategy has given our children the best opportunity to plug the gaps and return on track to a future of success.

Matt Payne is head of Lower School at Nord Anglia International School New York

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