How to give vulnerable students the best shot at success

How to give vulnerable students the best shot at success

Five pointers to help re-engage marginalised students

The children we teach at Apricot Online all have additional challenges to overcome. In Alternative Education Provision (AEP) you’re essentially educating students who don’t conform to the ‘one size fits all’ format that’s available in mainstream education. In order to help these young people get into the right frame of mind for tackling their studies, it’s often necessary to peel back many layers of resistance that may have formed over the years.

As educators we need to pay attention to every student’s back-story and at Apricot we ensure that we have a holistic picture of each student so that their educator is aware of triggers and any other information that might feed student disengagement. We’re commissioned for academic teaching, but that learning will only be enhanced by taking account of the vulnerabilities of these children.

  1. Age isn’t an issue – our students will have missed lessons for one reason or another and could have an image of themselves of ‘failing at school’. We need to flip that negative perception and show that learning can be a positive experience. It’s therefore important that they work at the level appropriate to the individual and not the age related key stage. What’s the point of making a student who has struggled and failed at one stage to then be catapulted into the next stage where they’re only going to fail harder and feel even worse about themselves? We nurture students and ensure they are ready to progress at their own pace. Celebrate success in all its guises – attendance, attitude, perseverance and grace are all praiseworthy and can make valuable inroads into rebuilding confidence and engagement.
  2. Curriculum – sometimes it makes sense to know half of a curriculum really well and be confident as opposed to knowing all of it on a different level. Exams have been tough enough this year so any opportunity to minimise stress and build confidence should be taken.
  3. Energy – many vulnerable youngsters just run out of energy in a lesson. One-to-one, or in the small classes which we teach, can be really demanding, especially if the student’s energy is already compromised by a mental or physical health issue.
  4. Relationship building – if you don’t take the time to establish a relationship between learner and teacher at the beginning of any learning quest, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Praise is only valued when it comes from a trusted source and the same is true of constructive criticism.
  5. Connection – of course Maths and English form the bedrocks of many people’s idea of education and for good reason. But if a student has an antipathy toward those subjects, then by offering a course that holds a better connection for them, for example Tourism or perhaps Computing they will be more willing and able to engage with their core courses.