Supporting key year groups as they return to school

How do we support key year groups, now and on our return to school? and what do we do for those who can’t return at the same time?

These are the questions we all wish we knew the answers to, aren’t they? The truth is I don’t think that anyone has the magic fix, that particular silver bullet probably doesn’t exist, once again leaving teachers to figure out what’s best for their students. Nothing particularly new there then!

Year 7

Obviously, this situation has been frustrating for every year group, but I’ve been particularly frustrated about the effect that it will have on our year sevens. We started a new scheme of work with year seven this year and it was going really well, the quality of work they were producing just wasn’t comparable to previous years. It felt like they were being taken away from us as we were really making progress. Thinking about their return is different to year ten and twelve. We have more time to play with and we’ll be able to make it up again. I’m going to be thinking carefully about what they have missed and working out what needs to be made up and what can be left behind for now. For example, what were the new grammar points being introduced and what key vocabulary has been missed?

Year 10

The work we have been doing whilst they have been at home has been practice of what they have learned already, so at least that has continued even though the new elements haven’t been added. Once I’ve figured that out, I’m hoping to find a way to incorporate those elements into whatever the next topic should be, rather than pushing the whole thing by a term and giving myself a problem at the other end. I’d much rather the important things were grasped well than covering a whole range of content.

If that’s not your decision to make, I think the main thing we need to do is make sure that year seven are still engaged with their language learning and eager to continue. Remember all the hard work you did to get them on board in September? We don’t want to lose all that. Don’t let them worry about what has been missed, get them back into what you’re teaching them in the here and now.

Year 10 are likely to be the ones that are most worried about the effect all this will have had on their GCSE studies, and rightly so, but we can’t let this dominate their return. At the time of writing, the current government guidance says:
Secondary schools and further education colleges should also prepare to begin some face to face contact with Year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year, in support of their continued remote, home learning.”

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With this in mind, we have two different things to consider. One, what will happen in June/July and two, what will happen if we all return in September. June/July will not be the time to push on with what was scheduled for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it’s going to be an alien situation for all involved and we won’t just be able to teach as we usually would. Secondly, students won’t be prepared to take on too much new learning, they’re going to need to re-establish routines and get used to things again. Thirdly, even at the best of times, teaching that happens right at the end of the summer term is going to get forgotten over the holidays anyway. My focus with year 10 is going to be on making sure I know exactly where they are at right now so that I can target my interventions in September. Assuming there is going to be a mix of remote and face-to-face learning I will make the most of the face-to-face time to practice the listening and speaking elements which have been much harder to do remotely.

In September, or whenever we get closer to ‘normality’ I will try and target the areas that I’ve identified in the summer whilst making sure to cover the remaining units in as much depth as I can, given the limited time left. I think that what is most important at this point is making sure students have the grammatical knowledge they need and the topic related content can build on top of this.

Year 12

Year 12 are likely to have a lot of the same concerns as year 10, except for the fact that we have been continuing to expect them to learn new content. The time I get with them will therefore have to be about making sure they have understood the main themes of the module they have been studying and potentially re-teaching any new grammar points that were covered to make sure these were clear. I’ll also want to get them started on their research projects if I haven’t managed to do this already.

But what about those that can’t return yet?
Clearly, we are going to have students in these key groups that aren’t able to return yet due to vulnerable members of their household, and that is going to pose us some difficulty. With the exception of year 12, we have been focusing on revision up until this point as we don’t think that it’s reasonable to expect students to be able to learn totally new content alone. However, if their peers are going to be learning new content then how do we ensure that they don’t get behind? I’m afraid I don’t have an answer for this, I think we can only do our best. As for the other year groups, I guess we juggle continuing to teach them as we have been alongside whatever face-to-face we are getting with the older students.

There are certainly no clear-cut answers when it comes to what happens next. All we can do is control what we are able to – our teaching and our own wellbeing. The rest is beyond our control, and that’s ok.

Rebecca Nobes is Head of Spanish at The Boswells School in Chelmsford, Essex. Rebecca runs #MFLchat on Twitter on Monday evenings from 8.30pm-9.00pm. She is a council member of the Chartered College of Teaching and was awarded Chartered Teacher status in July 2019. She can be found at @BexN91 on twitter or

Rebecca has previously written about strategies for teaching from home while maintaining a work-life balance. Looking Forward to the Return to School

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