Embracing a new opportunity to learn: One family’s journey
The Larg family once battled a very common, yet often devastating problem for young people: bullying. Luckily for them, bullying is now a thing of the past, but the sad reality is that many other children will experience this throughout their years at school. The Largs’ story is an important one because it shines a light on the alternative options out there that can help parents and children eradicate negative and unwanted behaviour, and help children flourish in all aspects of life.
Ditch the Label recently found that over the past year, 25 per cent of young people in the UK had experienced bullying, 26 per cent had witnessed bullying and 3 per cent recognised they had bullied others. Most of those who had experienced bullying do so several times a week.
Clamping down on this is often challenging because it occurs in so many different forms, particularly during school years, yet it is clear that targets of bullying need support and alternative solutions. The Larg family found that solution in InterHigh. Their three children, Ben, Robyn and Lily, all joined InterHigh between 2018-2020 and here, their mother, Iona, reflects on the journey the family has been on, and the benefits her children have reaped since switching to an online educational experience.
New opportunities to learn
After my eldest, Ben, experienced bullying at a local school, we knew we had to make a change but weren’t sure how to do this without jeopardising his education.
That’s when we found InterHigh, which offered the children a new opportunity to study in a way that was a lot more flexible. It also fit nicely with our surfing business and family lifestyle – Ben also surfs at an international level for Scotland meaning we travel a lot throughout the year. From the moment Ben joined the school, he felt safer and was happier for it. He was able to reengage with his learning in a positive and happy environment, surrounded by other children that wanted to learn. Fast forward a couple of years, and both Robyn and Lily are also now enrolled at InterHigh.
While Covid-19 has undeniably impacted thousands of students over the past year, the same can’t be said for those at InterHigh. Ben has been able to continue balancing his surfing with his education and has been able to continue relatively normally. Despite the added pressures of dealing with a broken foot and various physiotherapy sessions and operations, he’s been able to work around appointments and access lesson recordings to ensure he doesn’t fall behind. This has also been valuable with his international surfing as it means wherever we are in the world, even when we’re on different time zones, Ben can continue studying.
This proved problematic before InterHigh; he would spend parts of the year in Lanzarote and originally enrolling him into a Spanish school was challenging, particularly as we didn’t speak Spanish. For an athlete, it’s important to immerse yourself into training and yet, dipping in and out of his education was proving troublesome. With InterHigh, we no longer need to worry about that. It’s set up to accommodate families moving around and the teachers are very supportive of Ben’s aspirations and career pathways.
The same can be said for Robyn, who’s found it easy balancing her work with downtime and other commitments. Being dyslexic means that Robyn sometimes needs extra time so that she can go at her own pace. The flexible nature of lessons has helped with this and has also meant she is able to focus more on her strengths. This has been particularly helpful when choosing her GCSE subjects as she’s been able to work closely with her teachers to decide which subjects she wants to pursue, without feeling the added pressure of picking those that would normally be recommended, like science. Robyn is incredibly studious, and the structure is there for her as well as having supportive teachers who are always responsive. The responsibility for students to take ownership of their learning is also something we’ve seen Robyn improve in, as it’s helped her get better at time management and making sure work is completed on time.
Our youngest, Lily, has found the transition to online school slightly more challenging, particularly from a social perspective, but has already made friends with those in her class. She tells me, “I feel smart”, which is always reassuring for a parent to hear! Moving from a Scottish to a British curriculum isn’t straightforward, but through InterHigh, the school has a more personalised approach to learning, meaning we’ve been able to assess where Lily is at with each subject, and identify the appropriate classes for her to move into. This means for some subjects she is in year six, and for others, she is in year seven. As a result, the lessons are appropriate to her levels, and this simply wouldn’t have been possible at her previous school.
The best parts
When reflecting on the things the children have most enjoyed, Ben says the flexibility of his studies, and how it accommodates his surfing so well. Robyn tells me it’s the balance of work and life, while Lily admits it’s Wednesday’s because she has more free time up her sleeve! However, what we’ve seen is a big difference in our children, and arguably one of the most important things has been the quality time it has given us as a family. We eat lunch together every day, which my friends tell me is unheard of. But for us, that flexibility is key in being able to spend time together and suiting our lifestyle. If the surf is good, we can travel immediately knowing that the children can continue working while we’re on the move!
The relationships our children have developed with their teachers are better than what they had at their previous school, and this has really helped improve their confidence and self-belief in their abilities. They also have the opportunity to interact with such a wide variety of children who they otherwise would probably never mix with, each with their own story to tell. Despite being situated in various parts of the country, or in some instances, the world, they can still get a real sense of who their peers are and have developed some really lovely friendships along the way.
Message to other parents
I’ve seen how much bullying and the wrong environments can impact a child, and I’ve also seen the difference that taking them out of those situations makes to their confidence and happiness.
The past year has changed the priorities and lifestyles of so many of us – both from a work and social perspective. Therefore, it’s important for us to recognise that education should also evolve with this change, and that there are alternative opportunities out there that perhaps align more closely with those needs and priorities. InterHigh suits our lifestyle so well but there are so many reasons that parents may want to consider online education on a more permanent basis post-pandemic.
It’s okay to try something different and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at how well children cope with change. My husband and I were certainly sceptical at first, but it’s worked out so well. of course, there’s always room for improvement, but at InterHigh, the children feel like their opinions and feedback matter, and the platform continues to evolve to meet their needs and the ever-changing landscape around us.