How to make sure your child excels while learning from home

  • Video report by ITV News Midlands Correspondent Ben Chapman

  • Words by ITV News Multimedia Producer Kavita Patel

As schools across the UK are closed for most students, teachers and education experts have told ITV News some of the steps children and parents can take to make the most of learning from home.

From taking regular breaks to trying to reduce stress and speaking up to teachers and schools when you're struggling, here are some tips on how to effectively study outside of the classroom.  

Take regular breaks 

It is good to take a screen break in between lessons and be sure to step away from the screen during break and lunch times as too much time spent staring at a screen may be draining.

Alessandra Cambio, a History teacher and Head of Year 7 at a school in Northamptonshire, told ITV News it's important to take a break, especially away from a screen outside school hours.

Secondary school pupils across England have been forced to study from home. Credit: PA

The secondary school teacher, who works at Caroline Chisholm, said: "It's important to stick to a timetable and have breaks when school has a break."

A primary school teacher in Leicester, who did not want to be named, told ITV News: "Even if you haven't finished all of your work, you should try to take a break." 

"We would suggest, and other primaries would do the same, you have an English and Maths class and one other thing and it's important to take a break in between." 

Primary and secondary schools in England have closed as part of new restrictions imposed by Boris Johnson.

"They might not have completed all the work or have completed it to the standard they would have in school but I think having a go is important," she added.

Greg Smith, Head of Operations at Oxford Home Schooling, one of the UK's leading home education providers, said: "Boring as it might sound, giving your learning a predictable structure and routine does help to make sure you get everything done."

Communication is crucial

Schoolchildren should know that they can speak to their parents or teachers if they are struggling with the work or communicating during the virtual lesson.

Ms Cambio said: "It would be good if parents can make sure they check in with their children during this time. It's a different way of learning and just asking how they are getting along can go a long way."

For children with additional educational needs, communicating online might present a bigger hurdle.

Students who have a stammer may also feel pressured or uncomfortable unmuting themselves during a lesson.

A speech and language therapist, who works at various schools in Birmingham, has told ITV News there are lots of strategies teachers can use so that children don't have to verbally speak if they are feeling anxious about it.

She said: "They could write answers on a virtual white board, they could use a traffic light system to show teachers how well they have understood the lesson, and they can use the chat function or email their teacher instead."

Get students involved for a great reward

Encouraging your child to engage in remote learning will be extremely beneficial and rewarding.

Principal at Bristnall Hall Academy in the West Midlands, Kully Uppal, told ITV News: "The focus is on making sure that the academy or school still feels like a community - that is what makes us amazing in normal times.

"By encouraging your child to engage in all that is offered on your child’s learning platforms, they can still feel very much part of something much bigger.

"Remote education means they will not only be engaging in fantastic lessons but also, they will be enriching themselves by participating in online assemblies, competitions and other virtual forms of enrichment."

Mr Uppal said that your child's engagement will also help them to receive rewards and help the class and year group to excel.

"This sense of working together will ensure that any feelings of isolation are quickly eradicated and a sense of true community achieved," he continued.

Create a routine 

It's important to remember that most students are unable to concentrate for lengthy periods of time, regardless of the learning environment.

The UK government has recognised this, especially with learning from home, as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "We expect schools to provide between three and five hours teaching a day, depending on the child’s age."

"If parents feel their child’s school is not providing suitable remote education they should first raise their concerns with the teacher or headteacher and, failing that, report the matter to Ofsted," he added.

By setting routines and adhering to the timetables and lessons, children will find it easier to stay focused, engaged and make progress. 

A Year 6 primary teacher, who is providing recorded online lessons that can be watched at any time throughout the day, said a routine is crucial for younger children.

She told ITV News: "If your child can't have the laptop until the afternoon because you're working, maybe you have one lesson, and then have a break and then do another lesson and a brief break. It's definitely important to have a routine. 

"Primary School aged children will need an adult with them while they learn from home.

"Most families will only have one laptop and although we've been told we can hand out laptops, we only have less than 20 from the Department for Education for the whole school - and we need to choose those really carefully," she added.  

Get lots of sleep and rest

If your child or children are not in a good routine with their sleep it will be harder for them to concentrate.

Most people between the age of five and 11 need around 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night, while 11 to 18-year-olds need 8 to 10 hours. 

The primary school teacher said: "If the children are tired and feeling hungry or anxious about the situation they are not going to learn to their best ability.

"It's also crucial for children to try and step outside and get some fresh air. It can be tempting to stay in the house all day long, especially with remote learning, but even a short walk after school with a friend or their parents can be hugely beneficial.  

"Exercise can also be crucial for children's health and well-being and the release of endorphins will also help with any stress or feelings of anxiousness they may have about remote learning."

There are no restrictions on exercise, but people are asked to start and end at their own home.

Utilise online learning resources

Technology is a huge part of education both in schools and at home.

From BBC Bitesize to the National Geographic for Kids, there are lots of resources that are delivering educational content in a fun and engaging way. 

Some of the best online learning resources include:

Try and create a good learning environment if you can

Not everyone has the luxury of a home with multiple bedrooms or different rooms as children and parents work from home.

Ms Cambio said: "If you can communicate clearly with one another over who needs certain spaces and timings of virtual lessons and meetings, this can really help the work environment at home."

And where possible, it is important to try and remove any distractions such as the TV or radio blaring.

It's easier to concentrate and pay attention to the virtual lesson when you're in a quiet environment.

The Leicester primary school teacher added: "Primary school children also need to feel safe and reassured during these strange times and we as teacher will make sure that they are trying to stay positive.

"The most important bit is getting through it, it will be hard but we will be able to catch up on learning," she added.