Why the focus should be on securing progress rather than catching up

The gaps that existed pre-pandemic continue and may have widened. Most children will have forgotten some things and need reminding and refreshing in order to access new learning. So what should schools do? Eleanor Hick, co-creator of Shine: Targeted Interventions for Primary, discusses.



Start from the where the children are in terms of knowledge and understanding. Using formal tests or informal teacher assessment, identify strengths and insecure/ missing knowledge and skills.

Identify and target gaps - whole class

Looking at whole class, group and individual levels, identify gaps. Many gaps can be addressed through effective teaching that uses this information to ensure that topics start with a refresh to clearly establish what children already know and remember. Many gaps are gaps of memory and confidence.

Identify and target gaps - group

Some children will have gaps and misconceptions that require a deeper type of support. Here focused small group intervention to teach or re-teach aspects of the curriculum is needed.

It is vitally important that as it is usually a teaching assistant who is tasked to work with these groups, materials provide the right support for the TA. In order to teach a group effectively the TA needs:

  • Teaching material that supports understanding of mathematical content and language
  • Support to use questioning effectively
  • Time to read the teaching material
  • Time to gather the right resources
  • A way of assessing outcomes of the intervention

Identify and target gaps - individual

Very few children will need one-to-one support either because they are working at a different level to the rest of the class or they have specific gaps that cannot be addressed in a group. Here again the TA needs the support of quality resources to effectively teach the pupil.


The number one most important way to help children to make progress is to ensure that they receive effective and engaging teaching every day in every lesson. Good teachers teach from the child’s secure understanding and move them into new learning.

There has been considerable research into the effective deployment of support staff. Ensuring that they are being deployed to teach a specific intervention (rather than ‘hovering with blue group’) will ensure pupils progress. Beyond that it is important that the TA deployed to support groups and individuals are enabled with time, quality resources and the support and oversight of a teacher.

Evaluate and next steps

If the children have been taught a unit of work, the next step is to identify what they have learned. Can they solve problems independently? Can they do it with the additional support of resources, reminders, etc. Have they just misunderstood some key concept? Teacher assessment has an important role here.  Encouraging children to self evaluate and to talk about what they understand and where they get stuck is another very effective way of evaluating progress and identifying potential next steps.

These are difficult times in school and children are now missing chunks of new learning through being sent home to isolate or because their teacher is not available.

The ability to accurately identify and address the gaps that hinder progress is more important than ever. I would say it's all about securing progress rather than catching up.


Shine: Targeted Interventions for Primary is a 3-step solution designed to help you seamlessly assess understanding, identify knowledge gaps and deliver targeted individual and group intervention activities for the areas of weakness demonstrated in your pupils’ diagnostic test results. Find out more about Shine today.

Eleanor Hick



Added to your basket: