Learning never stops for patients

A hospital stay causes many disruptions to a child or young person’s life, including missing out on school. However, for patients at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), the Education Institute ensures learning and engagement never stop – even in a pandemic.

The RCH Education Institute team, consisting of teachers, education consultants and additional learning support staff, cater for all learning abilities and levels from kindergarten through to secondary school. The team work closely with a patient’s enrolled school to make sure they can continue their learning and are able to transition back smoothly once they have been discharged from hospital.

“Children and young people managing a chronic or serious illness bring with them particular needs for support with education and learning because so many of them are at an increased risk of disengagement,” said Naomi McBride, Director of the Education Institute.

The teachers at The Education Institute develop Individual Learning Plans in conjunction with the patients, families and the enrolled school to ensure specific learning needs are targeted during their admissions. The learning programs created have a strong focus on literacy and numeracy, however are underpinned by a proven approach to engage children and young people. From learning about Australian wildlife after the bushfires, appreciating the diversity of global cultures and places, taking virtual tours of museums, practicing goal setting and preparing to transition to high school or the workforce, the Education Institute encourages curiosity and experiential learning with interactive and engaging teaching methods.

Due to COVID-19, face-to-face teaching and learning was put on hold to maintain patient and teacher safety – but this did not mean school was out.

“Our team needed to adapt quickly to the COVID-19 environment, including the use of virtual learning technology to reach our students. By utilising Zoom, Google Classroom and Edmodo, our teachers, with the support of families, could provide both individual and group learning experiences remotely,” said Naomi.

A typical school session now means students receive resources to support their learning ahead of time and then use Zoom to interact with the teacher and other patients in their online classroom.

“External partnerships contribute to our virtual learning program by providing rich learning experiences facilitated by beloved children’s authors and illustrators Alison Lester, Jane Godwin and Andy Griffiths,” said Naomi.

This educational innovation continued in the recent school holidays with the commencement of a Virtual School Holiday Program, led by two teachers at the RCH Education Institute. With the generous support of Creative Studios, the in-house television production team at the RCH, patients were provided with an educational resource pack for the two-week period. Patients then tuned in to RCH TV from their hospital room for live-streamed lessons with a focus on literacy and visual art.

The Education Institute, thanks to your support, continue to be well-equipped and technologically savvy to ensure no child is left behind in terms of their educational needs, despite the challenges they may face in hospital.