8 tips for student success with online alternative provision

Student success with Academy21
At Academy21, we want to ensure you get the most from our high-quality, flexible provision and that your students are best equipped to reach their individual goals.

Mainstream schooling doesn’t suit all learners needs all the time and alternative provision exists to support pupils who cannot access mainstream education, this may be due to a vast number of reasons.

The students who are supported by Academy21 have access to a broad curriculum and are taught by highly trained UK based teachers. Our platform tracks and reports on the progress of each pupil taught through our learning portal. Online AP is often used by schools and Local Authorities as a solution for pupils to remain on their school roll and still feel part of the school community and our most successful schools take a varied approach in supporting their learners’ needs. We use the term ‘Learning Mentor’ to describe the teachers or other staff in school who are responsible for their learner(s), these mentors will have regular contact with their students as well as Academy21.

1. Set clear expectations with learners and their parents/carers from the outset.

At Academy21, our Partnership Managers work closely with Learning Mentors from the education setting to ensure that students are onboarded correctly and are fully aware of what to expect from Academy21 lessons. This ongoing support involves meeting mentors regularly to ensure their students are getting the best out of our platform.

When a school signs a student up for Academy21 online alternative provision the Learning Mentor completes an enrolment form and based on the information provide they receive a set up email with instructions on how to access the mentor portal and clear guidance on how they should set the expectations for learning with the student and their parents/carers.

The guidance relates to attendance, levels of engagement and interaction during the lessons, plus the protocol for communicating issues or updating the Learning Mentor on any changes to the learner’s needs.  Our Partnership Managers also set regular review meetings with Learning Mentors to ensure all parties get the most out of their Academy21 experience.

It is important to note that at NO point do any of the Regional Customer Administrators (RCA’s) or Partnership Managers have direct contact with the student or their family/carers, all communication takes place through the Learning Mentors

“My daughter, has severe chronic fatigue and had missed 18 months of lessons prior to joining the academy. She was nervous about how she would cope and found it tricky at first as her resilience was low, but the stimulating nature of the lessons Miss Perkins runs as well as her kindness, good nature and efficiency means that my daughter loves her lessons and actually looks forward to them. Her confidence in maths is growing and she is making measurable progress.” Parent Sonia

2. Make the most of reporting and regular review sessions to aid learners’ progress

Monitoring pupil progress is paramount to success. We ask: Is our provision meeting the learner’s current needs? If not, what can be done?

At Academy21 we encourage learning mentors to set realistic targets for each student, whether that be related to attendance, engagement in lessons or the completion of homework. 24/7 Attendance and engagement data can be viewed by the mentor via the Learning Mentor’s hub.

In every lesson, our teachers grade learners out of 5 for effort, understanding and interaction (1 = poor – 5 = wonderful). We encourage Learning Mentors to monitor these grades and refer to them when working with their students. These scores can be used as a basis to gauge improvements over time, small attainable goals can be set, for example, improving engagement by answering class polls.

This form of reporting empowers the school to set appropriate and achievable targets to ensure each learner makes personal progress.

3. Where appropriate, provide students with access to Academy21 lessons from the school setting

Many of the schools we support find a blended approach to online AP to be the most beneficial to their students. While it’s not possible for all learners, those who can access AP sessions in school can benefit from additional face-to-face support from pastoral staff in addition to the learning delivered by our experienced teachers online.

At Academy21, we encourage one to two days per week at school wherever possible. This is dependent on individual circumstances as the student may be permanently excluded or suffer from severe anxiety.  But for many, gradually building up their attendance in the school setting allows them to access pastoral support and helps them build their confidence with a view to returning to school full-time.

Our team work incredibly hard to ensure learners re-engage with their education and ultimately return to a mainstream setting.

4. Build strong, supportive relationships with learners’ family members, carers, or guardians

We know that strong home-school partnerships are always important, for any pupil. But when a child or young person is accessing online AP due to behavioural, medical, or mental health needs, it is crucial that they have a strong support network around them.

Regular, clear, consistent communication relating to expectations and approaches is essential. Family members can be shown how to best support the student when learning at home and expectations should be shared between and agreed upon by all parties. We strongly suggest Learning Mentors monitor and report on progress to parents/carers at regular intervals.

We provide 24/7 online access to our reporting and monitoring system for all Learning Mentors. The comprehensive reporting system continuously monitors the learner’s attendance, engagement and academic progress which can be shared with the learner and their family members/carers.

“We consider Academy21 to be a wonderful service. We are very appreciative of it all: the administration, ease of contact, standard of lessons and constant feedback and monitoring. It has been a constant for our student who would otherwise not have access to education when she has been unable to attend school.” Lori Winch-Johnson, Head of Learning Support Farnborough Hill

5. Mitigate technical issues by ensuring hardware and software is appropriate.

As you’ll see on our website, we state the gold standard requirements for IT but we appreciate that schools do not always have such high-tech IT equipment. As a minimum requirement, we accept students with access to a working laptop, headset, and an internet connection.

Upon enrolment, we send a detailed email to the Learning Mentor explaining how the student accesses the A21 learning platform. They also receive unique student induction login information, a username, and a password.  It is important to note, if a student forgets their password, they can reset it themselves on the login page where they enter their user ID, resets can be completed by clicking on the “Forgotten Password” option. Microsoft Office 365 software is desirable for all students and compulsory for those studying a Functional Skills ICT course.

6. Use Academy21 as an early intervention or as a form of respite for learners

The numbers of students struggling to maintain attendance and good behaviour at school is growing at an alarming rate. Academy21 recognise there is a pressing need to provide suitable education for students who are having a difficult time in mainstream education.

Respite can be offered at all Key Stages, but our Partnership Managers have found it to be especially successful for year 11 students prior to the GCSE exam season.

We support schools by offering short term access to our learning platform for students that are struggling or are exhibiting disruptive behaviours, whilst still having continuity of learning for their core GCSE subjects.

How does respite work?

Individuals or even groups of students can be moved from the classroom to a separate quiet space elsewhere on the school grounds. In their new environment they can attend lessons via the Academy21 portal, supervised by a member of staff – this could be a support worker or other member of non-teaching staff. This process can break the cycle of poor behaviour and equip them with coping strategies, the aim is to re-engage the students with their learning.

Respite also gives the teacher the opportunity to concentrate on the remaining students who are more comfortable learning in a classroom environment ensuring they have the opportunity to achieve their best exam results.

“Without Academy21 many of our vulnerable kids would have left school with absolutely nothing! Instead, they were able to continue to engage with learning and leave with GCSEs. Rather than punishing these vulnerable students, with Academy21 we have been able to intervene and get to the root of their individual problems. As you can imagine, parents are so grateful for this opportunity to reignite their child’s passion for education and give them hope of a positive future. Of course, Ofsted loves it too! While the expectation is for the Lucys, Vishals, Philips and Kaitlins of the world to slip through the cracks, Academy21 has helped them enjoy their learning journey and reach the finish line with a smile of success on their faces.” Nathalie Ehlinger, Manager Abbeyfield school in Chippenham

7. Set up the best learning environment for students accessing online AP in school.

A student’s learning environment can have a significant impact on their progress and success. A quiet, calm space, which is familiar to the student can support wellbeing and alleviate anxiety. It is also important to use the same learning space for every lesson, so the student feels secure.

The learning space should provide access to the internet with a laptop and a comfortable seating position, with limited distractions. A public local library can be a good solution if there are siblings at home and working at school isn’t an option. However, ideally, students should have adult supervision at home or in school. Learning Mentors can communicate the importance of setting up a learning environment to parents/carers of students working from home and offer support in creating an adequate learning space.

8. Use Academy21 in your setting to supplement your curriculum offering and support learners in the core subjects

The Apollo Educational Programme, at Haybrook College Trust, uses Academy21 for Maths, English and Science lessons. Students attend these online lessons in the core subjects, whilst on the college premises, and the college provides lessons in Art, Motor Mechanics, Cookery, Music, Sport, Personal Development, Work Experience, Careers, and visits to places of interest.

Using online AP in this way, on the school site, maintains the school day routine and structure. Students also benefit from socialising with others, which can help maintain a healthy mindset, build confidence, and develop social skills for life.

“Academy 21 has been nothing short of amazing. The level of support and nurturing is invaluable to students who use the programme. I cannot recommend them enough.” Matt Nelson, Teacher – Northwest Kent Alternative Provision Service

We see the benefits of online AP every day when schools put these key points into action and use Academy21 in the ways we’ve outlined here. When used well, tailored to the individual needs of learners, and regularly reviewed, students can make great strides – both academically and in terms of their wellbeing and mindset.

Mainstream schooling doesn’t suit all learners needs all the time and alternative provision exists to support pupils who cannot access mainstream education, this may be due to a vast number of reasons.

The students who are supported by Academy21 have access to the same broad, curriculum and educational opportunities as their fellow students, they are taught by highly training UK based teachers and our platform tracks and reports on the progress of each pupil taught through our learning portal. Online AP is often used by schools and LAs as a solution for pupils to remain on their school roll and still feel part of the school community and our most successful schools take a varied approach in supporting the learners needs.

If you’d like to discuss how Academy21 can support your students with their learning, get in touch. We’ll advise you on how to get the best from our online AP service for optimum progress and success.