Children have really struggled over the past year with the disruption in face-to-face learning. Many have had difficulties accessing online learning consistently due to lack of access to a device and poor engagement with content remotely, whether online or paper-based. Our aim with the Ascent programme is to help ‘close the gap’ for pupils within our local community who have been hardest hit by the school closures.

Ascent Programme

Our focus is Year 5 children from disadvantaged backgrounds who are failing to meet national standards in the core subjects of literacy and maths. We know there are considerable gaps in their knowledge that need to be addressed to provide a strong foundation for learning moving forward. Ascent, developed in collaboration with staff at our partner schools, enables these pupils to catch up on vital work they have missed, solidify their basic knowledge and skills and build their confidence.

We provide booster curriculum-linked sessions in the core subjects of maths and literacy supplemented by interactive, fun hands-on science sessions and co-curricular lessons (Drama, Art and Sport). Ascent runs on nine Saturday mornings at Emanuel in the summer term. Lessons are led by Emanuel staff and supported by Emanuel Sixth Form and Year 10 volunteers. We run an additional two-day session at the end of our term before the state schools break up for the summer holidays.

We are running the programme for the first time this year so have not yet had a chance to evaluate the impact formally. Our goal is to ensure that children have the basic skills they need to meet their educational potential. Measurements will be a combination of teacher feedback, school-administered tests and SATs.

GCSE booster sessions

Over the October half-term in 2020, we ran a three-day booster session at Emanuel School for Westminster City School (WCS) pupils preparing for their GCSEs. Our aim was to fill in the gaps created by school closures and the challenges of remote learning. We provided two parallel sessions each day – one to offer intensive support; the other, to stretch and challenge.

Key concepts in Maths, English, Biology, Chemistry and Physics were covered in interactive lessons each day. Taught over the period by nine Emanuel teachers with support from several members of WCS’ staff, the sessions ran from 8.45am to 1.45pm daily.

In addition to classroom-based activities in English and Maths, students were able to undertake practical work in the Science labs enabling them to develop their understanding of difficult concepts and have hands-on experience of working in a laboratory environment. The pupils were enthusiastic and enjoyed the practical approach.  In addition to the materials covered in the sessions, pupils were provided with question packs and model answers matched to the requirements of their exam board. The programme was well attended with 30 pupils participating on the second and third days.

Feedback from the pupils was overwhelmingly positive, with some even asking if there were more sessions on the Thursday and Friday. 100% of the pupils in attendance found the programme helpful and would like to attend another session if offered. Pupils commented on the range of teaching methods and the efficacy of teachers involved. In particular, pupils found the teachers to be articulate, good at interacting and committed to ensuring that the pupils understood the concepts. Based on this feedback, we plan to run the session again in 2021 and, if resources allow, to offer a follow-up session over the 2022 Easter holidays.

The initiative was a great example of collaboration between Emanuel School and Westminster City School. The deputy headteacher of WCS, Jennifer Lockyer, wrote, “I just wanted to say a massive thank you for all of the hard work that the teaching staff at Emanuel have put into the sessions for our boys this week.”

Bridging to the Future

We are an active member of the Wandsworth Independent and State School Consortium, and plan to include Wandsworth secondary schools within the programme going forward.

In the coming years, Emanuel plans to launch ‘Emanuel Connect’ which will use a variety of initiatives to share our teaching and learning expertise with a wider audience. Its aim is to boost social mobility through education. The Ascent programme is our first targeted curriculum sharing initiative.

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