Your GCSE & A Level Lockdown Learning Catch-Up Plan
No matter how hard your child has tried to keep up with their lockdown learning, it’s almost certain that there’s something missing from their education that would have been learned or developed if they were in school. And, as many students have been turned off learning by the online curriculum served up by their school, they will be far behind where they would have been if this had been a normal school year.
So, what do you do to make sure they’re not too disadvantaged at the beginning of the 2020-21 academic year?
You need a lockdown-learning catch-up plan.
What are schools doing to fill the gaps?
The government is putting political pressure on schools to develop individualised ‘catch-up’ plans for their students, as well as putting funding behind this goal. It’s not going to be easy for schools to develop personalised catch-up plans for students they’re only spending a few hours with them before the summer holidays.
I would not recommend relying completely on the school’s plans for catch-up, although it will be helpful to be informed about them. Whilst lockdown learning provision has been brilliant in some schools, others have really struggled with the technology, with rapid changes in health and safety advice from the government and the lack of institutional flexibility that has come with a decade of under-investment. This goes on top of the usual variability in quality between individual teachers and departments within a school.
So, if you want to be assured of your child’s success in the 2021 exams it would be an excellent idea for you and your child to take responsibility for implementing your catch-up plan.
Your lockdown learning catch-up plan
The first step in a catch-up plan should be to identify gaps in learning. In this article, I’m going to go into detail about how you can identify and fill those gaps.
How to identify your lockdown learning gaps
The first step in identifying your lockdown learning gaps is knowing what your child’s school would have covered in these months if this had just been a normal year.
You can get this information from two sources:
1. Asking your child’s teachers or the head of department for each subject what they would have covered.
Each school teaches GCSE and A level courses in a different order, and often specifics of what they teach will vary. For example, different schools will teach different English literature texts and schools will also choose different case studies in subjects like geography and sociology. You need to know the specifics of all of this if you’re going to catch-up properly.
2. Downloading the exam specifications for each of your child’s subjects from the exam boards’ websites.
Exam specifications are available to download for free and are the secret sauce behind the most successful students’ strategies to get the top grades (see this video for a guide on how to find them). In the specification you’ll find a subject content section which lists all the knowledge and skills your child needs to make sure they can answer every question in an exam. Print off the specifications and do a detailed audit of what they have covered in the lockdown months and what they haven’t covered.
When you’re identifying the gaps in your child’s learning you’ll want to look at a couple of key things:
1. Is your child struggling with content knowledge or exam skills?
Knowledge is pretty easy to fix on your own at home if you have access to textbooks and the internet. However, skills are harder to develop without an expert teacher or tutor to guide you. Although, it can be done using the Revision Power Hour technique.
2. Prioritising the core subjects
If you believe your child is on the borderline for failing any of the core subjects (they are likely to get less than a 4 or 5 at GCSE) then your catch-up learning should be focused on these subjects.
Doing retakes is a real pain when you want to move on to your sixth form courses and they can be really discouraging for students, holding them back. So, encourage your child to put their energies into passing these subjects.
How to fill the gaps in your child’s lockdown learning
Now you know where the gaps in your child’s lockdown learning are, how will you fill them in?
Go through your audit of what your child needs to catch-up on and identify:
1. Which bits you think you’ll be able to cover through self-study at home
2. Which bits you’ll need professional support with e.g. a course from Justin Craig
Once you know what kind of help you need, put plans in place to make it happen.
A word of warning
While your child might put their heart and soul into their lockdown learning catch-up plan it’s unlikely that they’ll be exactly where they would have been if lockdown had never happened by the time we get to September. It is also highly likely that if they do put a lot of effort into their catch-up plan over the summer that they’ll be bored and frustrated with school’s attempts to help the people who haven’t tried to catch-up.
This is no reason why you shouldn’t put time and energy into the catch-up plan. Going over materials again when they return to school will be a form of revision and can’t hurt with finessing the finer points of their knowledge and understanding.
Basically, all effort now is worthwhile – but expecting perfection from your child is unreasonable in the circumstances we find ourselves in.
Best of luck!
Lucy Parsons is an academic coach who helps GCSE and A Level students to achieve their full potential through 1:1 coaching, her online hub for families, The Extraordinaries Club, and her book The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take. Sign-up for Lucy’s free Ultimate Lockdown Learning Catch-Up Plan here.