Literacy opportunities missed
While there was controversy over various aspects of Covid 19 – vaccinations, mask-wearing, lockdowns – no one would deny that our young children have missed out on vital socialising and learning opportunities. When schools and nurseries closed, many children simply didn’t get the range of communication and language opportunities fundamental to early phonics and reading skills. And these are skills which must be embedded early. According to the National Literacy Trust, literacy is not only essential to a child’s future education, but it’s a foundation of mental health, happiness and even life expectancy.
Building confidence and having fun with number games is also essential to future mathematical learning, and for many children, these opportunities have also been lost. A mathematical qualification is needed to progress to most further and higher education in the UK, and, as the founder of Elite Tutors Karen Ormerod describes,
‘I always say to parents that if the basic groundwork isn’t in place, it’s like trying to build a skyscraper on shaky foundations.’
The challenges in schools post-Covid-19
It was a challenging time for teachers when they returned to the classroom last year. Some children were simply not ready for the more structured phonics program (linking sounds to alphabetical signs) which takes place in Year 1. This is when most phonemes are taught specifically and it’s crucial for a child to be able to link the sign with the sound at this early stage if he is to gain reading confidence. Without these phonemes in place, reading can become difficult and laboured and a love of reading can be easily lost. One respondent to last year’s research carried out by the Education Endowment Foundation replied, ‘Many children have entered Reception at a much lower level than previous years, particularly in number, mark making and speech, focus, and attention and behaviour.’ Another simply stated, ‘Reading and social skills have taken the largest hit’.
The transformative effect of 1:1 tutoring
Schools and teachers have long known how to address the issue. The transformative effect that primary school tutoring can have, either individually or in small groups, is also well known to the Government, which recently decided to double the pandemic catch-up money that secondary schools receive. Primary schools, however, were not included in the increase and their average funding of £7,000 means that tutoring is understandably directed at the most disadvantaged pupils.
Parents whose children don’t fall into those groups are often left with concerns about possible ‘gaps’ in their children’s knowledge. Has their child had a broad enough experience of language, rhyme, and letter sounds and shapes to give her confidence in the more structured phonics programme in Year One? Is she gaining the love of reading which is essential to all subject learning as a child progresses on her educational journey? As Karen Ormerod conveys, ‘There is a point in schooling when children begin to have to read to learn, instead of learning to read.’
Qualified primary teachers as tutors
Elite Tutors Sussex can help families who want additional support for their child during these crucial early years. Because early reading and early maths are so important, Elite Tutors has a policy of only engaging the services of primary-qualified teachers for its one-to-one tutoring sessions in Brighton, Hove and Sussex. Tutors take time to get to know their pupils and build all-important trust; they will be able to identify any gaps in learning specific to the individual child and work to close those gaps.
Summer learning boost
The upcoming summer holidays are the perfect opportunity for families to take advantage of tutoring services, in the comfort of their home. In one-to-one home sessions, tutors will be delivering individually-crafted learning using a child’s interests and favourite games as a springboard. In Brighton and Hove primary tutors will be focusing on early maths and literacy skills and giving children the educational boost to help them start or return to school with confidence.
The greatest gift
Around the end of Year 2 or the beginning of Year 3, pupils start comparing themselves. Karen states, ‘This is the time when self-esteem can plummet.’ But if they are enjoying reading, their language and vocabulary are expanding and they are beginning to understand the world around them. As far as self-confidence and later achievement are concerned, literacy skills could be one of the best gifts they are ever given.
Written by: Lindsey Tydeman