Fleur Sexton’s blog: As GCSE season approaches it’s vital to re-engage disaffected learners

Spring is in the air – which means it is revision time! Supermarkets and stationers are full of revision charts, flash cards, highlighter pens and sticky notes as GCSE students across the country pore over their books, trying to ensure they are prepared for their exams.

But what about those pupils who are disaffected with education and struggling to revise and get to grips with their fast approaching examinations?  Failure to achieve a C in Maths and English at Year 11 immediately limits a young person’s choices and future potential.

At PET-Xi my team and I work in partnership with schools day in, day out, providing practical support to young people around the country and we see on a daily basis how it makes a valuable difference to their life chances.  Our number one rule is to act fast – whether it’s a quiet and withdrawn child, uninterested in lessons, or someone who is generally non-compliant and causing low-level disruption, it’s always important to act quickly before the situation escalates and makes low academic achievement a given.

Our starting point is always to ensure pupils have mastered the basics – and, if not, to work like mad to provide this vital scaffolding because it’s absolutely crucial to all future success. Students who for some reason have missed out on the fundamental points of a subject or topic are consequently often unable to follow enough of the subsequent lessons to become, or remain, engaged.

When it comes to revision, the first thing to do is break the task down into manageable chunks.  Yes teachers will have gone over the necessary skills to help them arrange and organise a revision programme – but that doesn’t mean they will have remembered!  Varied and complex reasons lay behind disaffection, but groups of consistently low achievers include boys, FSM, EAL and SEN pupils, some ethnic minority groups, pupils with high mobility between schools and Looked After Children.

We have to acknowledge that unfortunately some young people in modern Britain lead chaotic lives – they could be carers or dealing with substance misuse, physical abuse, or pregnancy for example – and with such difficulties in their social situation, no amount of lecturing will make a difference. These youngsters often suffer from a sense of bewilderment and simply don’t know where to start – they may have bigger issues to think about than their English and maths GCSEs, which simply won’t seem that important to them.



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