Yet again I have had a call from a parent who is worried because her son’s school has decided he needs extra help with his English. Although they will provide this, she is not at all sure that she is happy about it and, of course, she is concerned. As a parent, it is very hard to think positive when school says that extra help is needed but, thinking positively, it is good that they are sufficiently on the ball to notice her child’s individual needs.
Extra help at school usually takes one of two forms, free and paid. Free help, often in a focus group, can be a really useful addition to a child’s work for a short period. It is not necessarily being suggested because the subject is a problem, per se, but might actually be to work on concentration or another specific area where a boost would be of help. None of that stops it from being worrying to most parents who talk to me about it.
So long as they, the parents, react positively to this bonus input then so will their child. It will probably only last for a short time (usually ten hours) and may give good returns. It is important, though, to keep a cool head and to encourage the youngster to see the help as a privilege, not something that they should be embarrassed about.
I do have more reservations when this starts to be turned into a money making proposition for the school, when they offer extra help for a fee. Often presented as a Saturday extra, it does raise some serious questions in my mind. Why should extra “same old, same old” on a Saturday morning achieve more with a child than can be done during their normal school hours?
I am all for boosting learning and, as a parent, wouldn’t mind paying a moderate amount to secure this, as I would for, say, swimming lessons. What I would want, though, would be to offer my child extra - not just another session at school. I hate the idea of cramming as I have seen it done in other, especially Asian, countries.
The same parents often ask the very sensible question “What should I be looking for if my child needs to boost their school work?” My reply is consistent. In my view, they need to find provision that helps their child to enjoy learning; that helps him to want to improve his writing and to read for pleasure. If the solution is to be a happy one then they need something that he sees as being for him – with a positive vibe and a feeling of achievement. He certainly doesn’t want to be pressurised but will enjoy working with other children – so a club approach perhaps? Obviously all this so long as the provider is proven in the field.
Here I, of course, recommend MagiKats! Every child has their own programme which is built around them and their needs. The careful combination of extending each individual, whilst they are at workshops and practising the basic core topics at home, is a winner!
Children love success! If my concerned parent chooses MagiKats then we will embrace the challenge of boosting him in English by providing him with extra input that he enjoys and that hits the right note to help him move forward. He will get stamps, prizes, certificates and medals to recognise his achievements, making MagiKats as satisfying to the child as any other out of school activity.
Meanwhile, I also advise them to think positive and check out what is on offer free from school and to help him to get the most benefit from it that he can.
By Jan Lomas.