• Sascha Evans

Resources to help parents of primary school children in lockdown

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

Many parents and carers are faced with uncertainty about school reopenings. Whilst the messaging for secondary schools has been clear(er) that they're closed for the next couple of weeks (at least), the picture with primary schools has been way more complicated; some are closed, some are open, some were going to be open but are now closed and some might be open but you'll only find out when you turn up at the school gates.

As I write this, (10.30 pm 3rd Jan), there has been no announcement from the government about full-scale closure of schools, but many of us are expecting it.

Lots of schools will be prepared for online learning, but, as someone who works with schools and colleges, I know that many of them aren’t. I'm not making any judgements about this, schools are having a really rough time at the moment. But this does make life hard for parents of younger children. If the online provision isn't great from a secondary school, pupils are somewhat more able to keep themselves entertained. But it's much harder with primary school-aged children.

Once again, parents and carers are trying to juggle work and family commitments with home learning, on top of whatever else COVID throws at them. It can be completely overwhelming to work out which online resources can actually help.

If you're the parent or carer of a primary school-aged pupil, I’ve collated a list of ideas and resources which might give you a bit of extra support over the next couple of weeks, particularly if your child’s school needs a bit of time to get their remote learning provision sorted. Most of the ideas below require minimal supervision, (although this may not be the case for younger children)

Sascha Evans

Founder, We the Creators

Idea 1: Follow a pre-designed timetable

Part of the difficulties of having children at home is trying to work out a) what they should be studying and then b) finding the right resources. Fortunately, there are existing timetables available online, complete with links to resources to save you scrambling around for more worksheets. They are wide-ranging and interesting, so should keep the kids occupied.

Gavin MacCormack is the Principal of a Montessori School in Sydney. He was a finalist in the School Principal of the Year in 2020 (what a year to be nominated..!), advises schools across the world and has built several schools in developing countries. Whilst he is firmly rooted in Montessori, he’s realised that many parents are about to be faced with home-schooling at short notice and has brilliantly put together a structured timetable. It’s basically ‘school for a week’ complete with links to worksheets, presentations, videos and other resources.

I’d say that this timetable is probably suitable for children in Year 3, although lots could be used for Year 4 too. I’ve checked this with Gavin to find out (I’ll update here when I know more). I’ve also asked whether he has any further timetables, as I can only find one at the moment, and he definitely hints at more!

Oak Academy is a free resource funded by the government to deliver online tuition to children. These lessons are delivered via pre-recorded video content. They usefully offer recommended timetables for daily and weekly lessons, so you don’t need to worry about researching resources. You won’t fill a whole day with this, but it will ensure that your children are keeping on top of their learning. And you could always combine with some live tutoring (see below Idea 2) or specialist classes (Idea 5)

Khan Academy is a US-based not for profit committing to delivering free educational resources across the world. They have really high-quality free resources and allow you to track your child’s progress via a progress dashboard. They offer loads of actually-very-helpful advice to parents about how to manage temporary homeschooling when you’re working and they have example schedules you can follow. Note: Their resources follow a US curriculum, which has a lot of crossover with the UK maths and science curriculum, but doesn’t really work for humanities.

Idea 2: Club together with some friends to access online live tutoring

During the last lockdown, I organised online tutoring for my son and two of his friends. They had an hour’s lesson with a tutor three times a week in either English, Maths or a learning or creative topic. The cost of each lesson was around £20 which we split three ways. It was much more affordable than one on one tuition and it meant that the children were still seeing each other.

The tutor was booked through Tutorful, an online tool which connects parents to tutors. Our tutor was a qualified primary teacher with over 20 years’ experience. She was brilliant. I registered and paid the tutor directly through Tutorful and other parents then paid me. Costs differ from tutor to tutor, but there are plenty of primary school-aged teachers on there and many of them are happy to teach groups.

Idea 3: Join an online group tutoring programme

Explore Learning run online Maths and English classes. You get one live-lesson a week in a small class, and then access to an online tailored learning programme. This may not be ideal for a short term solution, particularly if your child needs more face to face time, but it’s a great longer-term solution when combined with other resources. It’s affordable-ish at £124 a month

Idea 4: Use online resources to supplement the work given by the school

If you need some extra time filling up during the day or are concerned that the school isn’t providing enough work, there are some online resources you can access. Many schools use Timetables Rock Star, which works really well for some children, but my son couldn’t get on with it, so here are some alternatives:

Matheletics are offering free trials at the moment for 48 hours. They have a plethora of interactive resources aligned to the curriculum and give personalised reports on each learner’s progress. It’s affordable at £12 per month per user.

Smartick is an online maths and coding resource for children up to 14. It takes 15 minutes a day online (lots of parents use it to supplement school learning) and it encourages children to learn without any input from parents. It’s slightly more expensive at £39 a month, but it makes use of AI to be highly personalised. It’s pretty impressive.

Reading Eggs is a brilliant resource for helping children to read using reading games and activities. It caters for children up to 14. They are offering a free 30 day trial After that, it’s £6.99 per month for pretty much-unlimited access to all their English resources.

There are also loads of great free resources on BBC Bitesize and if you know where your child is up to in the curriculum, this can be a useful additional resource. If you don't know where your child is in the curriculum, use a resource like this to find out. Give them a few informal worksheets and find out what they do and don't know. This time can be useful for consolidating learning. BBC Teach also offers really excellent classroom resources (particularly videos) which can be used at home.

Idea 5: Join specialist classes focussed on your child's interests

If you’re basically happy with the Maths and English provision coming from the school, but would like other ways to keep your child busy and learning new topics, consider Outschool. Outschool is a US-based resource, but have teachers from across the world, including the UK. They focus on offering classes which are presented in really creative ways. (eg Digital Escape Room: Adding and Subtracting Fractions; Live Coding Lab; Real Pirates in History, A Trip to Mars: A Murder Mystery in Space) They offer one-off live lessons, as well as longer courses, flexible learning and drop-in clubs. You can select lessons by interest (e.g. Arts, Science and Nature, Languages etc) as well as by time zone.

They’ve brilliantly recognized that online learning isn’t just about academic support, so they offer several classes to support social skills and mental health (such as mindfulness and stress management) Classes are generally under £9 each, and often cheaper.

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