Lockdown and the closure of schools in March 2020 brought the biggest upheaval to children and families in living memory. Remote learning helped maintain some semblance of structure in children’s lives, but the lack of face-to-face interaction – coupled with the financial and emotional struggles faced by parents – meant many children risked being left behind in their development.
To help disadvantaged pupils during lockdowns and school closures, Barnardo’s, the UK’s largest national children’s charity, created the See, Hear, Respond programme, which provided much-needed tuition and after-school workshops to pupils across the UK.
Delivered by after-school tuition provider Learning Hive and the Association of Muslim Schools, the programme was able to successfully help almost 60,000 children and families across the country, helping them to reintegrate into the curriculum on their return to in-person learning.
Barnardo’s has its roots in the late 19th century London, where founder Thomas John Barnardo opened schools and homes for children in poverty, determined to give disadvantaged young people the best possible start in life. In the years since, the charity has expanded into working closely with families, offering fostering and adoption services, alongside comprehensive support for young people facing a wide range of issues.
Covid-19: an unprecedented challenge for children
“The Covid crisis has affected all of us, but children from vulnerable or disadvantaged backgrounds have felt the impact more heavily than most. School staff and local authority safeguarding teams continued to do an amazing job during school closures, but the uniqueness of the situation meant thousands of young people risked falling through the cracks,” said Amanda Naylor, Head of Partnerships at the Barnardo’s See, Hear, Respond programme. “We realised we needed a programme to provide extra support to children, young people and families struggling through the pandemic, and to spot issues well before they reach the threshold for statutory intervention.”
The See, Hear, Respond programme
This thinking led Barnardo’s to design the See, Hear, Respond scheme, a £1.5 million programme that launched in August 2020 and ran until 31st March 2021. A project this ambitious in scope needed delivery partners to ensure children and families got the support they needed, so Barnardo’s teamed up with after-school tuition provider Learning Hive, and the Association of Muslim Schools (AMS).
Learning Hive was responsible for the bulk of the project’s execution, working in tandem with AMS and using their combined experience with disadvantaged children to roll out a range of support that aligned with Barnardo’s goals for the See, Hear, Respond programme. This included face-to-face and remote tuition in key curriculum subjects such as Maths and English, combined with enriching activities such as drama and wellbeing workshops to provide a holistic experience.
Nayeer Afzal, Programme Director at Learning Hive, said, “A core aim of the See, Hear, Respond programme was to help bridge learning gaps between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, which had become even wider with the impact of school closures. This meant us and AMS working closely in partnership with schools and teachers to ensure those most at need were able to reintegrate into the curriculum on their return to in-person learning.
“We also built flexibility into the programme, enabling Barnardo’s to continue helping families throughout the on-off cycle of lockdowns. During a time of such crisis, this approach was vital in ensuring no child was left behind.”
An influential helping hand
The See, Hear, Respond programme proved to be a resounding success, with a total of 59,633 children and families helped between 15th June 2020 and 18th February 2021, amounting to almost 157,000 hours of support. This included over 3,100 BAME and SEND students. The scheme initially covered London and Luton, but rapidly expanded into Birmingham, Greater Manchester and Lancashire due to its early impact.
One parent of a year 5 child enrolled in the programme said, “My child really enjoyed the sessions with Learning Hive. He kept talking about all the great things they did in drama; he was so excited to go to school to take part!”
Commenting on the holistic nature of the scheme, Shiree Alam, Deputy Head at Azhar Academy Primary School, added, “The tuition element of the programme allowed us to provide targeted support for English and Maths for children who had significant gaps in learning as a result of the lockdown..the children have [also]really enjoyed the interactive and fun drama sessions which really helped build their confidence and self-esteem.”