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The Hope Virtual School

Leanne Bishop works for The HOPE Virtual School, an organisation which works to make a positive difference to the education of Bristol’s children in care and care leavers. She reflects on the impact of lockdown on their pupils

Schools have been very busy during these strange times and it has been the same for us at The HOPE team.  Just before lockdown, we had several newly arrived Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) who required school places.  This has been a challenge during Covid 19 but schools have responded positively and these children are now on roll. Thank you to all who helped to make that happen.

We recognise the challenge of supporting EAL pupils remotely e.g. they may not be able to access online learning due to limited knowledge of English/literacy levels and, as a result, have been collating resources that we have shared with schools, our young people and carers. We piloted access to these with 2 Bristol schools via a secure website and we hope to give more access to this in due course.   

The HOPE has been able to give some of our EAL learners access to an app called Flash Academy; a platform with lessons to develop English language skills from early language development to KS3/4 curriculum language.  We have also purchased a further 10 licences which we will be distributing to our Post 16 young people whilst they are unable to access their ESOL courses.  

The HOPE identified several schools that had UASC in years 8-10 who would benefit from additional funding to develop their EAL resources and support their programmes.  We were able to allocate some Pupil Premium Grants to buy resources. We recognise the resources could have a wider reach in supporting other EAL children as they can be used and shared with other pupils. 

We are aware that there has been an impact on the mental health of all our young people and our UASC have been particularly isolated. We have increased our contact with the Asylum and Refugee Clinic within CAMHs, meeting every 2-4 weeks to discuss our young people and respond to their needs.  If you have any Asylum or Refugee seeking children, whether they are unaccompanied or with their families who have experienced trauma and need support for their mental health, please refer them to this service;  either via their Social Worker or on 0300 124 5944 and ask to speak to Anna Kalin.

 As Inclusion and Participation Lead at The HOPE, I am undertaking research to share best practice of schools that are more confident in supporting these pupils.  I hope to collate a list of resources that are proven to have an impact on the progress of EAL learners so all schools can ensure they have the best quality resources.  If you would like to let me know about your experiences, please feel free to contact me: [email protected] 

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