Learning never stops, even in lockdown
Story by Anna Tuhey – Learning 4 Life Tutor
I think we can all confidently say that 2020 has been the year where learning planted itself firmly at the top of everyone’s list of things to do.
Weeks before lockdown came into force, we heard on a daily basis just how much devastation the Coronavirus outbreak was causing around the world. We heard about how fast it was spreading and how many lives it was claiming but even through all of that, we could never have anticipated a complete lockdown of the country.
As soon as lockdown came into force, our focus shifted entirely to the wellbeing of our students. The young people we support through our Learning 4 Life centres have quite chaotic and unstable lives at the best of times, so our first priority was to get on the phone to each and every one of them and make sure they were safe and had somewhere to live during lockdown. We also needed to make sure they still had money coming in and access to food. It was only when we knew the basics were covered that we could then focus on their learning.
I did speak to one young learner who’d been thrown out of their home during lockdown and so needed the support of Social Services. We became more than just tutors during this time, we were their allies. In some cases we might be the only professional a young person has any contact with so the responsibility falls to us to signpost them to services that can give them the help they need. I think signposting is something Llamau are very good at because of the vast network that surrounds us but we also understand as tutors that the wellbeing of our students is an integral facet of the role.
Once we’d established a young person was safe we were able to talk to them over the phone or via video call about what their learning experience would be like during lockdown. We sent out posted physical work packs, which we then discussed together via phone and video calls mainly. Most of the time this worked well as young people were able to send pictures of their work to me or they could hold their worksheet up to the camera but in some cases, young people didn’t have a stable internet connection or they didn’t have a laptop at home, so they found it hard trying to explain what they’d done. Their challenges became my own challenges as I had to try and understand what they were struggling with when I couldn’t physically see their work.
This was a whole new way of working for us all but thankfully most of the young learners stayed on programme.
Overall progress was slower and less work was done at times, but we expected that to happen. The young people we support through Learning 4 Life already struggle with a number of barriers to education so when you put a screen and an unstable internet connection between them and their teacher, it’s bound to have an impact. But, we always pushed through and made sure regular contact was there and that they knew we were always here if they needed us.
A barrier that lockdown actually removed for a number of young people was their anxieties around physically coming into a centre. Some young people liked the comfort and security of working from their bedrooms and the fact they didn’t have to leave their home. Understandably these anxieties did resurface when lockdown was lifted and our centres began to reopen but that’s where our teaching around resilience and other life skills came in.
The Learning 4 Life curriculum heavily supports the development of life skills such as communication, team work and resilience, which I believe not only helped young people through the isolation of lockdown but to also transition back into centre life. To make things easier we set out time to meet one to one ahead of their first day back with us and we sent them pictures of what the centre looked like. Seeing a new layout and tape cordoning off areas could unsettle anyone so it felt important to us that young people knew exactly what they were coming back to.
Even though centres have closed again, this lockdown doesn’t feel the same as the first one did. We’ve had time to sit down with the young people we’re supporting and explain their timetable to them plus we’ve been able to make sure they have things like Zoom downloaded on their phones and that their laptops are set up correctly. We’re already used to adapting our services to support the needs of young people but I think this lockdown and any future lockdown will be different because forewarned is definitely forearmed.
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We have supported 215young people through our learning, training and employment programmes