Catch Up, Not Patch Up

So much out there about catch up at the moment, and rightly so. Some children have missed everything, some have missed a lot and some have missed most of what they should have covered over the second half of this year. We’ve been asked to prioritise catch up in Reading and Maths and Phonics and we should. These are key skills that we need to get right. However, it also says in the guidance it should be done through other curriculum activities. It says that the vast majority of pupils should access the full curriculum.

So what to do about it? Well, we are not narrowing our curriculum. We get out positive outcomes by giving children the chance to apply their learning in other subjects, not by teaching more of it. When teaching Year 6 I never did extra Maths and English sessions for SATs and I won’t be telling teachers to do so in their year groups to help kids catch up. My view is, that for the majority of children, there isn’t a huge rush. The older they are at Primary, the less time you have, but Year 3s have four years to make up the lost time before they leave the school, not four weeks when you get back. Give them space to use their knowledge – this is where they really learn. They’ll learn more from this than in a extra technical SPAG lesson in an afternoon, and you’ll be able to feedback the same points to help them improve.

A rush to just pick up where children left off is flawed, in my opinion. Well stay where we always start – the basics in the core subjects – eg place value and four operations. If there’s gaps, we’ll plug it, if they need extra teaching on it we’ll do it. Same in English. We won’t be teaching objectives in the first 6 weeks just because they haven’t covered them. all this will led to is patch up learning, not catch up. Teachers will inevitably race through the old objectives as they know they’ve got this years to fit in as well. In turn we end up with superficial learning where they haven’t really learned it as it’s been raced through. After that, when you come back to build on it with the objectives for this year, you’re building on quicksand.

Our approach will be different. We won’t be catching up in the first month. We’ll be assessing and identifying. Most children will catch up just fine with the classroom offering you are giving them. They’ll take on board new content and get to where they need to by the end of the year. Some won’t. Those fall into two camps – those that need a group boost once a week for a short session just to go over something they haven’t quite got, and those that need more intensive, prolonged support. The last group is where our catch up money goes.

We won’t be racing through objectives. We’ll be waiting until they come round in our normal curriculum, and at that point we’ll teach the extra content. Doing speech punctuation? That’s the time to drop back to the objectives missed from last year and catch them up, and keep the learning together and ordered. You might be able to get through more in a similar time frame – but if you just front load the old stuff to September, you definitely won’t.

The key to this catch up is about embedding the new content – the same as we always do. We just might need to take a few steps back when we start off. We might not. That’s for you’re assessment to figure out. My view is teach it, and teach it well. Make sure they know it, and they’ve truly caught up not just been given a sticking plaster to say you’ve ticked off the objective from last year. This catch up has got to stand up to their learning for the rest of their education – do it once and do it right. There is no need to rush it – take the time to get it right, make sure they’re moving forward and can build on it next year and every year onwards. Proper catch up, not just patched up.

I’ve even given it a name. School.

Published by @secretHT1

Primary HT. Using this as a space to write honestly and freely about the state of education currently.

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