Identifying and supporting vulnerable students
By Clare Brokenshire | Deputy Headteacher at Academy21
All students are unique, and the most effective methods of learning varies between individuals. This is particularly true for vulnerable students who often either need additional or differing forms of support. But being able to identify vulnerable students is the first step in providing them with the support they need to ensure they receive the high-quality education they deserve which is why it is crucial that educators are aware of what distinguishes vulnerable students.
What defines a vulnerable student?
The overarching definition of a vulnerable student is a young person who requires extra support with their education. It is a broad term which encompasses several types of individuals. For example, it may be students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), those with either mental or physical health issues, young people with behavioural difficulties such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or emotional disturbance, or students who are in difficult circumstances which have led to them needing extra assistance.
It is also important to be aware that individuals could be categorised as ‘vulnerable’ for either a short or long period of time. It may be the case that a situation or series of events has led to a young person requiring extra support for a few weeks or months, before ‘bouncing back’ after reaping the positive benefits, and no longer needing additional assistance. Alternatively, due to the conditions or disabilities of some students, they may require extra support on a more permanent basis.
How can we support vulnerable students?
As already alluded to, students have varying needs, they learn at differing rates and in various ways across the academic year. Therefore, the most effective way to support them is through offering flexibility.
This is where Academy21 comes in! Our flexible online environment can help students remain engaged with their learning – without, most importantly, causing disruption to their routine. The variety of resources, interactive tools and support options mean that they have access to the best provision which suits their needs. For example, it may be that young people struggling with mental health problems and/or anxiety require additional one-to-one support to help them progress and rebuild their confidence. Or if a student is absent from school for a period of time (whether that be for health reasons or not engaging with a traditional environment) they are still able to access lesson content and recordings, even after the lesson has taken place, which helps them ‘catch up’ or simply reinforces their learning.
Additionally, a more informal, ‘relaxed’ setting can also often prove extremely valuable to vulnerable students in helping them to feel comfortable and secure. In Academy21 lessons, students refer to members of staff by their forename rather than surname (which is the case in the majority of mainstream schools), developing a more comfortable learning setting. Staff are also able to build and manage a positive ethos in online classrooms and develop strong rapport with each student. Classroom disruption is also a thing of the past; whilst it does not happen often in our lessons, if a student is causing significant disruption, staff are able to simply remove them from the online classroom. This helps students concentrate on their own learning experience, without comparing their progress to peers. They are also able to ask questions confidentially via the chat function without worrying about ‘speaking up’ in class. All of this in turn helps them to feel more relaxed, which in turn positively impacts their development.
Another benefit of Academy21 is being able to provide reassurance to students, parents and schools that our teachers are fully qualified to not only deal with students’ additional needs, but are experts in delivering online lessons – arguably a very different environment for teachers as we’ve discovered during lockdown! We provide students with teachers who are trained how to teach ‘through the screen’ and understand how to best connect with students and ensure lessons are exciting and captivating to maintain their interest and engagement levels.
Vulnerable children deserve a high-quality education just as much as any student, and it is crucial that those who require additional support have access to it, especially if they aren’t able to attend school in person. We are passionate about supporting students and schools in helping to deliver the best possible support, and ensure they are able to continue learning regardless of their situation.
For more information, get in touch!