Over the summer, Epsom College staff helped to launch and run a pop-up school for local children who missed parts of their education during lockdown. More than 400 pupils throughout Surrey signed up to the Invicta Academy to receive catch up lessons in English and Maths across Key Stages 1-4.
Mr Lawrence Matthews, Housemaster in Carr and teacher of Chemistry, played a pivotal role, first fundraising for the initiative and then assisting with teacher recruitment and training. Mr David Nuthall and Mr Vikram Singh helped to deliver lessons and Mrs Roshie Watkins provided support, volunteering as a facilitator. The College made a donation to assist with the launch.
All online lessons were free, and the Academy targeted pupils from disadvantaged parts of Surrey. Leaflets advertising the Invicta Academy were distributed with food bank parcels and schools in the hardest-hit areas were asked to contact families who might benefit most from the scheme. In total, over 6,000 lessons were delivered across Surrey.
“The lessons began on 10 August, and the project ran for three weeks,” Mr Matthews explains. “The aim was to recover material that had been taught at each Key Stage, rather than trying to plug gaps. This helped to boost the pupils’ confidence and enable them to feel a sense of success. The lessons also helped us to create a sense of routine ahead of pupils returning to school in September.”
Each lesson was delivered through a Zoom webinar with a teacher and a facilitator. The teacher presented the lesson and the facilitator was a safeguarding presence who could give feedback to the pupils and act as an intermediary.
One parent commented that “the live interaction has kept my child engaged and interested. The format used – explaining with the use of examples and getting children to answers then going through the answers together really helps things sink in.
“My child enjoyed the lessons and found she could keep up (a challenge for her – she has dyslexia). This gave her a confidence boost.”
The initiative started in Kent, with Mr Matthews quickly helping to establish the Surrey pop-up. Other pop-ups have followed, with Invicta Academies operating in Lancashire, London, Oxfordshire and Wales.
Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson MP said: “Activities which support the education and well-being of children will no doubt be beneficial ahead of their return to school in September. The pop-up online school, Invicta Summer Academy in Kent, is a great example of the community coming together to provide support for local children.