Students who are persistently and severely absent need creative and innovative solutions that address their specific needs. This is so they can become more engaged with their learning and receive effective safeguarding during their educational journey. How can this be achieved? What support can be put in place to ensure they are safe?
EDClass spoke to international safeguarding consultant, Victoria Raynor, and we discussed safeguarding, absenteeism and driving engagement using a hybrid model. A massive focus needs to shift to implementing solutions that address the specific needs of certain students, Victoria said:
“We need to be more innovative and creative with how some children learn. Following the pandemic, some children thrived online. Their problem was never transitioning into having to learn from home, it was transitioning to learning back in school again where they perceive their barriers to be.
We could have more of a hybrid model for children who thrive better in different environments. This is so we can bridge their gaps without socially isolating students which can help build self-esteem and improve their mental health.”
A hybrid model can allow students to feel secure whilst they are learning and can gradually build their confidence in a safe environment. Students are absent for various reasons, but providing areas where they can build their knowledge and understanding can be extremely beneficial. This can be achieved in suitable alternative provisions that promote personal development safely. Victoria added:
“I think that the government needs to recognise the potential of online education to safeguard children who may not be seen and those children who may fall through the gaps. We need to recognise that there are actual ways to overcome these barriers and safeguard children with new solutions. There also needs to be assurance to schools they can use these providers because I think some schools are frightened to be innovative.”
Safeguarding children requires support from parents
Engaging parents with their child’s education can be quite difficult at times. Schools need to build effective relationships with parents so they can feel confident that their child is being supported well and they are receiving high-quality education. Also, creating more positive experiences and outcomes can be achieved if these relationships are formed. Victoria stated:
“We shouldn’t underestimate the power of parents as partners and we have to engage them in a way that doesn’t feel threatening, hierarchical or authoritative. We need to educate parents about how some children learn. If you’ve got a base relationship with parents they won’t fear that phone call from school. It’s then much more likely that you’re going to have a positive outcome from having a conversation with a parent about something that might be a little bit contentious.”
Choose an alternative provision that safeguards effectively
Recently, there have been children who have attended alternative provisions for reasons that weren’t as prevalent before the pandemic. Solutions need to be embedded that allow students to overcome these challenges. When discussing the main challenges currently facing the education sector regarding safeguarding attendance, Victoria said:
“Post-COVID, there has been a rise in children with emotionally-based school avoidance, which I think masks some more complex mental health issues and has put more pressure on stretched resources. Students can become dysregulated and then schools try to find a balance of putting the child’s mental health first, but also wanting to maintain good educational access for these children.”
Finding the best solution for a child with specific needs can come in many forms. The types of alternative provision can vary and online models can elevate children’s confidence at a comfortable rate in terms of their well-being and academic development.
When choosing an alternative provision, measures must be in place to minimise any safeguarding risk that could occur. It’s important to implement a provision that addresses why a student is absent and put supportive structures in place to raise their attendance and keep them safe. This can be done through alert systems and constant review meetings. Victoria added:
“I think there’s a real stigma attached to alternative provision and it shouldn’t be viewed as a punishment. In terms of in terms of keeping children safe, I think it’s about allowing children to be able to build relationships with adults. It’s about schools and local authorities feeling confident that all of the staff within an alternative provision have been through the safe recruitment checks, have had appropriate training and are held to the same standards as teachers in a main school.
I think in terms of psychological safeguarding, it’s how alternative provision is viewed for that child, we want children to build their confidence, self-esteem and resilience of learning differently.”
Implement an online alternative provision
An online alternative provision combined with a model of hybrid learning can help absentness slowly reintegrate into a mainstream setting. Certain provisions can even effectively safeguard students once there are sophisticated measures integrated to overcome any learning barriers.
Victoria has been an advocate of EDClass and even scrutinised it too, assessing the safeguarding element and the effectiveness it displays as a provision. Victoria said:
“What EDClass does as an online provider, is it helps children get success and it helps them recognise the power of education and that they can learn differently. I think that it provides a service that can repair a child’s view of education.
In my experience, EDClass say to a child that this isn’t their permanent learning environment forever. But, what they want to do is make children feel confident, that you can retain information, you can learn new knowledge, you can learn new skills, and you can apply them. It then helps build children’s confidence, self-esteem and well-being.
I think it targets those forgotten children and presents itself as an opportunity rather than a punishment. It stops children and parents feeling like education is at a standstill. It allows continuity of curriculum, ensures children are not disenfranchised and that they have foundations they can build on. I think that that’s what EDClass does to transform lives, it makes children feel like their education hasn’t stopped.”