Laura, aged 13, had been out of school for 18 months due to social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) needs. She was unable to engage in a school setting, suffered from severe anxiety, and was known to self-harm. Laura required Alternative Provision as an interim solution to help her reintegrate into an educational setting.
Special educational needs (SEN)
Laura was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and presented Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) traits at primary school. As a result, the learner had low self-esteem and lacked confidence. Her moods also varied.
She attended mainstream secondary school for years 7 and 8, but it became apparent that this was not the right setting for her. She attended less than 10% of lessons there and had little to no support from her school.
The learner was eager to learn and get back to school. She needed a positive in-person relationship to access learning. It was therefore important to get the tutor ‘fit’ right. She struggled to build relationships and found it difficult to trust people.
A tutor was needed to provide 15 hours per week over three days to cover English, maths, and Science. The pupil was expected to be working at KS2.
Initially, tuition began at two hours per week. Laura was cautious of the tutor, Danielle; however, the tutor used the strategy of finding common ground, which helped. After three weeks, Laura was happy to see the tutor more, and the hours increased to four per week.
Laura had also been working privately with Amanda, a tutor who registered with Fleet Education Services to ensure the full requirement of tuition was offered and provided to Laura, at 20 hours per week. Laura engaged and worked well with both tutors.
It was important for tutors to find common ground and tap into the tutee’s interests. Talking about hobbies helped break down barriers for the learner to gain trust and feel secure. Building up tutor-learner trust was fundamental. The tutor needed a better understanding of Laura’s personality to be able to convey errors sensitively.
During the tutoring sessions, it was clear that Laura wanted to learn and missed her friendships, although she found them difficult to maintain.
Early sessions included multiple opportunities for success and focused on praising her for her accomplishments only, thus building her confidence in her abilities. With Laura’s complex needs, she would perceive mistakes as failures, which triggered her anxiety.
It was essential that the tutor:
- was patient to make the student feel comfortable
- approached lessons with fun and enthusiasm
- kept lessons light and engaging
- adopted a gradual scaffold approach
- was mindful when delivering feedback to avoid pupil dysregulation
The tutors needed to find creative ways for the pupil to recognise her mistakes and highlight what had gone well. Laura was capable, but the tuition needed to be enjoyable, with educational games included. Flexibility was also crucial, with no pressure or expectations.
A patient approach
Laura was a bright girl, and maths was her strongest subject, so they started there. Laura was very good at mental arithmetic, so Danielle focused on what she liked and what she was good at, praising and encouraging her to build up her self-esteem.
Danielle included games in her sessions and often brought a bag of activities so she could adapt if Laura didn’t like what she had planned. Laura could often choose what she wanted to do. Danielle would regularly think of new activities for Laura, as she would not like to do the same thing more than once.
Danielle slowly introduced schoolwork and used a variety of resources, including worksheets and practical activities.
Laura’s attendance and engagement at her tuition sessions were 100%. After a few months Amanda was re-assigned to another learner, but as Laura had a positive relationship with her remaining Fleet Education Services tutor, Danielle, the tutor offered additional hours.
- They now conduct 7.5 hours per week, which they are looking to build on.
- Laura is working towards the targets initially set and fully trusts and engages with home education.
- When tuition began, Laura was performing at KS2 – around year 5/6 level for maths. In seven months of tuition, she has now reached age-related expectations for her work on the four operations: number, and place value.
- Feedback from the parents is positive; they have seen a change in her attitude and outlook on education and learning.
- Laura has gained the confidence to re-enter a new educational setting part-time and attends school two days a week.
- She is building relationships with other learners her age.
- On the other days of the week, she still sees her tutor Danielle.
- It is hoped that Laura will gradually increase the number of days she is in school.
Laura works directly with a one-to-one Learning Assistant at her new school, but when she becomes dysregulated and leaves the classroom, the school takes a gentle approach to her schoolwork.
About the tutor
Danielle is an experienced primary school teacher who has worked for Fleet for just over a year on alternative provision (AP) assignments. Danielle spent time with Laura to give her the tools to cope with everyday situations. This has helped Laura trust the adults around her.
When talking about the impact that Fleet Education Services has had on Laura’s progress, Laura’s father praised both tutors that worked with her. “Laura would be in a different place now, had it not been for Danielle. It’s likely that she wouldn’t have had contact with anyone, so I can’t thank Fleet and their tutors enough,” he commented.