HM: What are you bringing to the Schools & Academies Show this year?
LB: Ultimately, we’re offering a solution for schools when it comes to pupils who can’t access mainstream education. It gets tagged as an ‘alternative provision’, but it’s needed for a whole variety of reasons.
Sometimes it’s for students suffering from their mental health (especially in the wake of recent events); it might be linked to illness or injury, or there could be behavioural issues.
What we provide is an online provision, with qualified teaching staff available who are also further trained in a more pastoral sense. We want to work with schools to make sure these students get the content they would be covering in the classroom, and at the same time, try to reintegrate them back into the mainstream.
It might be for a short period; it could be for months, or even longer. But we aim to help schools avoid the ‘revolving door’ effect, where a student misses, say, a week of maths, then when they get back in the classroom, they can’t understand the work in front of them, leading to them disengaging again, and possibly having to be removed from the class. It can end up in a vicious circle, where alternative provision becomes the only option.
So you work with each school’s own curriculum?
Yes, we’ve got all the content and we match it to the programmes of study that the students would be following anyway. But, we can also use our diagnostic tools to find out where there are any gaps in their knowledge and skills that might be preventing them from fully accessing that content.
We can then put together a more personalised programme to get them where they need to be, with qualified teachers on hand to deal with their concerns, suggest different approaches or resources, and ask the right questions to drive progress.
What else is involved?
One of the key tools we have as part of the provision is a gamification element. There’s an entire virtual world the student can access, with a garden they need to maintain – so they’re learning all those vital soft skills alongside the academic content.
There’s support built in for EAL, and there’s a Makaton aspect in there, too. Plus, our award-winning assessment tools can be used within schools, not just for AP, for wider gap analysis; so for example, you can check understanding of a particular topic and identify where additional support might be needed, whether for individuals or a whole cohort.
It does sound like a really holistic approach…
Yes, I think that a lot can get missed in alternative provision – it can become all about that core academic content. And of course, that’s important; but the skills around the content are important too. Communication. Self-regulation. Understanding that some rewards only come with time and effort.
It’s not just about filling knowledge gaps, it’s about building these young people as students who are ready and able to learn.
Is alternative provision a serious budgetary issue for schools?
It can be, yes. Understanding the market is important – what’s out there, and what are you already investing in? Are you using what you have in the most effective way possible?
For example, with EDClass, you don’t pay for specific students; instead, you have a certain number of seats, which aren’t fixed, meaning you can use the provision exactly where it’s needed, for as long as it’s needed.
That makes sense. So, what is the main message that you are hoping to get across to visitors at the show today?
That great alternative provision is a reintegration process. We understand that it’s not always going to be possible to get every child back into the mainstream building, full-time; but it’s the same process.
All our teachers are trained in that understanding of what we want to achieve as a company, in partnership with the schools we work with. Also, early intervention can completely change a student’s path. If you catch them when they are in the isolation room, and meet those dual needs of covering content and working on the soft skills that support learning – you might be able to avoid more serious exclusion from the classroom later on.
Discover more about how EDClass could support your school at www.edclass.com.