As we approach September, two volunteers involved in Migrant Action’s educational support project reflect on their experiences of e-tutoring over the summer
The closures of schools as part of the government’s Covid-19 lockdown measures raised concerns that school closures would disproportionate adversely impact the futures of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Such children are more likely to attend schools that are unable to offer supplementary online schooling, may be unable to afford textbooks or access internet learning tools. The risk that children from disadvantaged backgrounds fall behind in learning poses potentially long-lasting impacts on their educational and future job prospects.
As a grassroots organisation, Migrant Action witnessed daily the impact of the lockdown and school closures play out in the lives of children and families. In response, it set up the ‘No Child Left Behind’ initiative to provide educational resources and learning and befriending support to children and young people. Overall, the No Child Left Behind initiative aimed to prevent children falling behind in their school work and long term development thereby help reduce the widening inequalities in our society.
Here, two volunteers who participated in the initiative, Carys Milbourn and Abi Spring, elaborate on the work they have been undertaking throughout the summer. Migrant Action recognise the fantastic work undertaken by our volunteers involved in this initiative and we are immensely proud of their achievements.
Over lockdown I started tutoring children from two families, my role between the two families varied as I supported one family with Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 Maths and the other with A-level choices and discussing options for university. I was able to come up with a surprisingly engaging way of learning Maths by using online games with one family which has helped consolidate and refresh what they have already learnt, whilst also teaching some new skills. With my other family I have provided a friendly face and someone new to talk to as I definitely feel that for young people lockdown is extremely challenging, particularly when you are used to seeing friends every day in school. I have really enjoyed giving guidance on how I got into university and what I have learnt from my past experience doing A Levels. I think that it’s been difficult to adapt to a new way of communicating and teaching online but it has also taught me a lot along the way. A highlight of tutoring has been seeing the children gain confidence every week whilst talking to me and also in their Maths ability. I think that this project has shown that in times of hardship, uncertainty and fear, community is more important than ever. Although social distancing has made contact difficult, online communication has enabled greater conversation and community bonds to grow as people support each other through these strange and hard circumstances.
I was approached to participate in the No Child Left Behind initiative and was more than happy to join in: working with young people has always been something I have enjoyed, and it felt good to feel like I was contributing positively to the community whilst stuck at home in lockdown! I have been conducting weekly Zoom sessions with two children of Key Stage 1 level and helping them with both Maths and English. During our first lesson, I found out that the children had been given workbooks to study with (this is another arm of the No Child Left Behind strategy). I made the decision to purchase the same books that the children were using, in order to help me structure sessions and decide what activities we would work through ahead of time. It has taken a while to adapt to tutoring via the internet- I am a visual learner, so I like to explain things by writing them- but this method does not translate well to a webcam format and resulted in me holding up pieces of paper which was not the clearest way to communicate! However, once I discovered the potential of the ‘share screen’ option on Zoom, I realised that applications like Paint could be used just like a virtual whiteboard, and this has really helped me. A personal highlight of this experience has been seeing the children engaging enthusiastically with the work, as it’s clear they’re both really keen to learn. I look forward to our sessions every week- it also gives me a good excuse to avoid working on my dissertation! I hope the children feel like they have found the lessons useful and gained something from this experience, as I do.
Service user feedback
“Carys was very nice and engaging with me, I found out that we had quite a bit in common and I felt less shy talking to her as the chats went on. She’s also very smart and helpful and funny. I’m very grateful for the opportunity and I’d like it to continue.”
“Abi has been fantastic and the kids look forward to the next session with excitement, it has made a great difference, thanks a lot.”
“The laptop has helped us significantly, allowing us to be able to get through work and research comfortably as we don’t have to look on our smaller phone screens, and has also given us the leisure of not having to take turns watching things like Youtube and Netflix on our TV since we now have a second device to watch these things on. We appreciate this gift you have given to us.”