Teenagers’ only lifeline in lockdown comes via a mental health app

With mental health concerns for young people increasing and normal full-time schooling for every child unlikely to return for some time, some schools have turned to a new phone app in an effort to support their students’ wellbeing.  

 

The EduKit app, created by a social enterprise of the same name, enables students to send an alert to their school if they are feeling unhappy or unsafe at home so teachers can step in and help if needed.

 

The app also delivers targeted support to the student so if anxiety or online bullying is the problem, the student can be directed to a school-recommended counselling service or guides and video resources that will support them.

 

Emilie Darabasz, joint head of school and pastoral lead at Frances Bardsley Academy in Essex, who is using the app with their 1,476 students said: “The cumulative impact of this lockdown on young people can not be underestimated. They are not only dealing with their own issues but absorbing the emotions of their parents and carers too, many of whom are facing financial hardship and job losses.

 

“There is a sense of hopelessness in some children and with no end date in sight, they need support. The app means we can send help right into their hands at the point they need it. They can be directed to resources to help or they can message a teacher trained to deal with their concerns.”

 

The app has been developed by EduKit’s co-founder, Nathalie Richards, who was inspired by her own experience of being bullied at school: “I wanted no child to feel alone in dealing with a problem at home or school.

 

“The first lockdown made me very concerned for those who did not have someone they felt they could talk to. I had to make sure that would not be the case this time around and so we made sure the app was available for schools soon after this lockdown was announced. It’s important that teenagers know they can get help no matter what they are going through.”

 

The development of the EduKit app has been part funded by the Inclusive Recovery Fund from Comic Relief and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

 

Kaligo, the AI digital handwriting app, shortlisted for two BETT Awards

The technology awards for education, The BETT Awards, finalists were announced on Friday, with Kaligo being shortlisted in two categories for their AI digital handwriting app, Early Years and Digital Apps.

 

The BETT Awards are usually hosted at the BETT Show in London on in January each year but delayed due to the pandemic and the winners will be announced in June. 

 

Faisal Hamid, Director at Kaligo explains: “It’s wonderful for the Kaligo team to be recognised as a global leader in technology for schools.  To reach the finals in two categories, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, just shows the hard work and dedication from our team this year.  For the many schools now using Kaligo, they are already seeing the benefits, witnessing the improvements in outcomes, as well as the joy Kaligo brings to the pupils, particularly through remote learning, it’s really helping.”

 

Kaligo combines years of neuroscientific research with the latest AI technology and is a new tool that will help teachers highlight handwriting difficulties in a few minutes.  Teachers choose their preferred handwriting scheme and either a pre-set lesson or set their own lesson for their pupils. 

 

This new development is set to revolutionise how younger children learn the fundamentals of handwriting.  Through Kaligo teachers can deliver the lesson, provide instant and individual interventions, as well as actively monitor the progress for every child in the class. All without adding to their workload.

 

Talking about Kaligo, the Kent ICT Champion of the Year, Matthew Tragheim said: “Kaligo provides instant feedback and children can hone their handwriting through their own choice – we can see progress as children have a passion for it.  The instant feedback given through Kaligo has a huge impact on handwriting improvement.  We’ve recently launched our impact trial which will help teachers see for the first time, concrete evidence of the positive impact of edTech in the classroom”

 

With Kaligo, pupils find handwriting more fun as the colourful and intuitive screens on tablets most pupils are already familiar with, making the task of handwriting more exciting.  Kaligo then stores the data so teachers can easily monitor progress and provides teachers with the deep dive knowledge they need through its constant classroom assessment.

 

Approved by the DfE Hungry Little Minds campaign, Kaligo has also been recognised by many awards organisations, including the GESS Education Awards.  Kaligo is a member of the National Handwriting Association and a member of the latest cohort of the UCL Educate programme.

 

If you would like you find out more about our free impact trial or Kaligo, please visit

www.kaligo-apps.com for more information.

 

The most Googled questions about home-schooling children, answered by an education expert

With the nation still in lockdown and schools set to open on March 8th, home-schooling is still a regular activity in many households. Home-schooling your child can be challenging for both parties. Your daily routines have been upturned since last March and the normal we once had, seems like a distant memory. Before schools closed in the pandemic, only 60,000 of the 11.5 million in the UK were being home schooled, so it has been a brand-new situation for many people.

It’s more than natural to feel anxious and worried, especially if you need to work from home and are struggling to find a balance. The main thing you can do is to stay calm; you will be no use to yourself or your child if you give yourself a hard time. To show you that you’re not alone, we have asked education expert at The Profs, Richard Evans to share the answers to the most googled questions about home-schooling children.

 

  1. How many hours a day should I spend on schooling?

There is no expectation for you to be working with your child from 9am-3pm straight! In a classroom setting, the teacher will have no choice but to split their time between 20-30 children, whereas at home they’re getting one on one attention. Productivity can be high in a focused 20 minutes in comparison to a busy classroom filled with other pupils and distractions. At home, the school day doesn’t have to be a strict 6-hour schedule, you will find that activities can be completed in a shorter amount of time.

 

  1. How do I structure the day?

The best way to start the school day is with some exercise! This will trigger feel-good hormones and boost endorphins for the day ahead. Even though they’re not travelling to school, it’s important to have them dressed and ready for the day by around 9am, this will make it easier to blend back into routine when school reopen. When it comes to planning your day, there is no such thing as right or wrong. It is more than likely that your child’s teacher will be conducting live lessons which will help you decide when to set your activities. It’s important to remember that every individual works differently, some children will concentrate better in short 20-minute sessions whilst others need a longer focus period.

 

By now, you should have detected what time of the day your child’s concentration span is thriving, plan priority lessons or activities when they are most alert. Younger children will need more supervision but if your child is older, you can set daily activities and let them choose the order. This will encourage them to work to their own timeframe with your support.

 

  1. How do I limit screen time?

Home-schooling does involve an increase in your child’s screen time. The usual classroom activity that would involve paper to pen activity may now be transferred to a virtual task. It is possible to monitor the amount of time that your child spends on electronics, but it won’t come without a pushback. YouTube videos are great for visual learning, but this can turn into an activity that is longer than intended.

 

As a family, collectively discuss when screen time needs to be reduced and implement a few days around live lessons to focus solely on off screen activities. Provide them with books and print outs to extend their learning experience offline.

 

  1. How do I help my child if they’re falling behind?

Your child might still be adjusting to learning without a classroom. Not physically engaging with their friends and teachers could result in learning setbacks. Not all children will learn and develop at the same rate, the term ‘falling behind’ accounts to your child’s own potential rate of progress and not the progress of others.  You should identify the area of the curriculum in which they’re struggling with, it could be the whole curriculum or a few areas. You should then see how fundamental it is to the rest of their work. If the skills are needed to succeed in the subject, for example basic fractions, you need to focus on removing this weakness as they progress in their year group. Once you have this knowledge, speak to your child’s teacher. Working together you can create a joint strategy which can carry on through live lessons and your one-on-one time. They can also point to you the direction of helpful activities and websites.

 

  1. Should I get a private tutor for my child?

Education is best handled by experienced experts. In many cases, it may become apparent that home-schooling is hindering your child’s educational development. The most common factors that we have seen are lack of teaching structure, lack of subject knowledge and, most commonly, the impossibility of managing a full-time job with full-time homeschooling! If you feel that home schooling is more challenging than it needs to be, it might be worth contacting a tutoring agency. We recommend those with designated education consultants who can pick up the phone and discuss with you whether a private tutor is right for your child.

A private tutor can add much-needed structure and a healthy dose of fresh energy to your child’s weekly studies. They will have the time to create personalised lesson plans that target your child’s specific, individual weakness and the experience to make the learning objectives stick. Modern online private tutoring may be more budget-friendly than you’d expect as the industry has seen dramatic innovations over the past years, with 41% of Londoners using private tuition before lockdown. Lastly, you do not need to invest in private tuition for all subjects. Many families just focus on one subject, such as Math’s or English, which is causing particularly high levels of stress.

  1. What if I don’t understand the subject or task they are doing?

Lockdown learning and the sudden thrust to become a teacher can leave you feeling overwhelmed. If the school and your child’s teacher have set daily work, it can feel like an obligation to get through everything and have extensive knowledge on each subject. The key thing to remember is you’re not teaching; you’re facilitating their learning. If you think back to when you were at school, the curriculum has changed dramatically. Home schooling is about a switch of environment.  If you don’t understand a subject or task, it’s ok to admit this to your child, in fact it might even make them feel at ease. As a parent, you set the example that you don’t need to know everything and there is always space to learn. This will be comforting to your child.

 

  1. How do I maintain discipline during lessons?

Turning a home environment, one that coordinates fun and leisure, into a place of discipline can be tricky. Children perceive home and parents differently to a classroom full of peers and teachers. You might still be struggling to set the tone for your home school, but the key ingredient is to stay calm. Losing your temper will not only disrupt the atmosphere but will also make your child less reactive to learn. Children tend to follow suit when they know what to expect. Same as in a classroom, a schedule will be a simple tool to accelerate education. If they can clearly see when a break or lunch period is incoming, it will motivate them to complete the prior task to enjoy it. This isn’t a strict schedule but something to base your days around.

 

  1. How do children get the socialisation they would normally get with their friends at school?

One of the most challenging aspects of home schooling is seeing your child miss their friends. Having time to spend with friends is essential for children’s development and well-being. In lockdown, virtual sessions have replaced physical contact and it’s important your child retains their friendship via video calls. Zoom sessions are great for reminding children their friends are in the same situation. You should also try to recreate your children’s favourite activity at home. Take time to switch off from parent mode and play with your kids. Make paintings, play games and ultimately let them take the lead. Interactive games such as scavenger hunts will allow your child to have fun and create a distinction between school and home.