Educating Key Stage 3

Educating at home poses a challenge to many families currently. Here Nuala Fitzpatrick, a qualified teacher and project worker on The Fostering Attainment and Achievement project in Northern Ireland, shares her top tips on how foster carers can support their 11-14 year old’s (Key Stage Three 3) learning at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

On top of the ‘usual’ challenges foster carers and children face, they now have educating at home to contend with. But how can you conquer that challenge and make sure your young person gets a good education?

Have a routine

Having a routine can make all the difference. I can’t over emphasise the importance of structure. Especially in times like these where life is changing for us all, a routine gives young people a feeling of safety.

With many schools in Northern Ireland using My School (an online learning platform), rather than running online classes for Key Stage 3 pupils, a lot of emphasis is put on independent study. Having a structured week can help young people to stay organised and ensure their work is completed on time. When you develop a routine for the week make sure it includes time for learning, but also accounts for having fun and relaxing. Keep in mind that a lot is happening at the moment and that young people might need that little bit of extra down time to digest the many new situations they are faced with and the pressures that come with the lockdown or social distancing measures.

Keep the motivation up

In the current circumstances it can be hard for young people to keep motivated and stay focused on a task. Having a reward system in place can be really helpful to keep them going. Why not introduce stamp cards – similar to those used in coffee shops (when you get ten stamps you get one free afternoon, for instance). Be creative and think of what it is that gives the young person the most gratification and what they would be happy to strive for.

To keep them motivated it is also important to make their workload manageable. So it’s usually a good idea to try breaking it down into bite-sized chunks. This is particularly important to acknowledge when developing a routine. You can also try using the when you do ‘x’ (task), then you can have ‘y’ (reward) principle to keep your young person more focused.

Highlight the positives

This is a very challenging time for everyone and it is easy in such a situation to focus on how difficult things are. Try to be positive about your young people’s learning. Praise them on their achievements, no matter how small, encourage them and always focus on their strengths. At the end of the day, making it through this difficult time healthy and well is an achievement in itself.

Please know that if you are struggling with education at home, support is available.

I recommend contacting the school in the first instance, especially if you’re worried that your young person might fall behind. Each school is different, and the amount of work set can vary. Don’t hesitate to raise questions or ask for help should you need it.

For more advice on home schooling, useful links and resources on the subject please go to our Fostering Attainment and Achievement page. Did you know that you can also get in touch with an FAA project worker in your Trust area? Email for more details.

Last but not least, here are top five resources to keep your young people learning:

  • CCEA: The website covers a range of subjects (from Learning for Life to Maths, History, Sciences or Modern Languages) for different age groups. It also includes practical examples, such as how to use everyday situations to improve your maths skills.
  • BBC bitesize: The BBC provide 20 minute videos, step-by-step guides, activities and quizzes covering Key Stage 3 subjects. New lessons, developed by teachers and subject experts, are published weekly.
  • Duolingo: The website is particularly useful for young people who want to work on their foreign language skills. It can also be used as an app on your mobile.
  • Amazon Audible: The online store is currently offering free access to a lot of books during school closure.
  • Home Economics with Jamie Oliver: The website has recipes for young people of all ages to try at home. Why not cook something together?
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