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Invicta National Academy addresses levelling up in learning - by Hilary Scott

Hermela, the daughter of immigrant parents from Eritrea, “is a very quiet, slightly introverted, reserved child” says Miss Olivea Ohonmele, Head of the National Higher ability programme and Invicta Academy English teacher. Hermela lacked confidence and would often keep herself to herself. Her parents have worked hard to support their daughter and formed a group with other parents to educate themselves and their children. Last Summer 2020, when Hermela was 9 years old, she started learning for free with Invicta National Academy in the holidays and has continued all year. Its unique, online-based, interactive learning platform is where Hermela does not see the other children in the class and they don’t see her. This has been ideal, as it allowed her to learn without the intrusion of remarks being made by other pupils. Without this discomfort, Hermela was able to focus on the subjects. With the interactive element from “Kahoot!”; she can see her name come up on the screen when answering a task, but not her face. This, coupled with the regularity of the lessons provided her with structure, that in turn has now built up her confidence.

She is now at a point, where she wants to stay up to revise for the Invicta lessons the following day. Through her hard work, Hermela has moved from striving to be in the high ability grouping, to now achieving her place in top set. She has returned to the classroom more assertive and has even won a certificate for her excellence in English. During the Invicta question and answer sessions, Hermela has consistently achieved top marks.

Shanika’s mother works two jobs and everything she’s got goes into her child’s education. While in Year 2 Shanika was noticed as an able child but due to her environment, particularly when Covid arrived and the difficulties the family faced, Shanika had not been performing to her full potential. When Invicta opened up it was a golden opportunity for Shanika. She said to her mother “If we use Invicta’s services at a higher level I’ll be more challenged. “ So her mother registered her for KS3 lessons, although she was in year 4 at the time. Shanika has excelled above and beyond all expectations. Now in school she is deputy head pupil and has received a standing ovation for things she has written. She has just turned 10 but by begging her mother to allow her to do linguistics she has been learning elements of A level English.

Then there is a pupil, known as “The President”, Michael. When he was about 10 years old, he was involved in the Living Wage Campaign and he gave a speech about the rights of families who were suffering from the low living wage. As a result of this there were high expectations of him, which placed a burden on his shoulders. In addition, when lockdown came he wasn’t able to do as much work as at school because he had an old computer and no access to certain required resources. After contacting Ian Duncan Smith, who helped him with some of those resources, he was encouraged by Olivea to attend Invicta National Academy lessons this summer. Michael is now in Year 8 and he has loved the Invicta lessons this summer seeing a direct impact on his progress: after getting a 4 in his English exams earlier in the year, his latest grade was a 7.

Alyssa aged 13, didn’t see her father for 18 months as he remained in India during the pandemic, having gone over to look after his mother who unfortunately died of Covid. The family in the UK found life tough and Alyssa was really affected by the situation brought about by Covid. Invicta National Academy provided a life line to her as part of her coping mechanism was to throw herself into her school work. She started last summer by doing the HAP programme and then carried on during the holiday sessions. She has been performing at KS4 level although she is actually in KS3. Alyssa stated that “certain concepts that she learned from Invicta have been useful at school” . Alyssa says that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up!

These stories are just some of the successes that Invicta National Academy has been having with young people. They are a clear demonstration that the lessons have helped the less able to be more able and the more able to really learn at their required level. “Levelling up” is a key phrase being used by the government to demonstrate how it is addressing some of the inequalities that have arisen in our society over the last few years. Nowhere has this target of levelling up been more ably demonstrated than by the work of Invicta National Academy which was only set up in the summer of last year, 2020 by Founder Anna Firth with charitable donations to offer free lessons in Maths and English during the summer holidays to help children address gaps that occurred due to the ravages of Covid on children’s learning. Due to its success last summer and the desire of its students and parents Invicta has gone on to provide lessons every holidays and half term since. The Higher Ability Programme started last year and runs during term time over five week periods. This summer, 2021, Kent and Essex County Councils have contributed to the funding of the online live lessons, with over 82,500 lessons taken up across five weeks to a minimum of 4,300 children.

The impact report written by Kiarash Shadell of this summers’ lessons show some startling findings. The ethnic diversity is extraordinary: - 39% of children are from ‘Black -African’ origins, 20% from ‘White-British’ and 9% from ‘Asian-Indian’. In the report it states, “The use of Client Distribution Mapping provides strong, striking evidence that Invicta Academy is reaching children that need and benefit most from Invicta’s free lessons.” While Invicta’s reach has not only been nationwide and indeed world-wide, a large proportion of the children attending live in Kent due to the support from Kent County Council’s Reconnect programme. “Using Batch geocoding software and regional data for Kent as well as information from various newspaper articles and other sources it has been possible to plot Invicta’s reach in Kent against local school performance. Poor education is one of the measures of depravity in an area and thus it is likely that the areas within the vicinity of these schools are economically deprived. It has been well documented that the education of these children living in deprived areas such as these will have been the worst affected by the pandemic. Students living in these areas are students who would likely need and would benefit most from free summer catch up tuition. A high density of sign-ups from areas in the general vicinity of the worst performing/deprived schools in Kent is good evidence that the Invicta program has been reaching such children as can be clearly seen on the map below. This conclusion is additionally supported by our town data [4] from which we can see that a significant proportion of Kent families attended from Dartford (123), Gravesend (79), Chatham (74), Maidstone (49), Ashford (48), Tonbridge, Gillingham, Rochester, Canterbury and Sittingbourne so we reached a lot of deprived areas. “

Red: Postcodes of emails that have signed up to Invicta lessons in Summer 2021. Green: Top 10 poorest/most in debt schools in Kent [7] Blue: Top 10 worst performing schools in Kent [8] Pink: Top 10 worst performing secondary schools in Kent [9]

Black: Top 10 worst performing primary schools in Kent [10]

Not only has the Invicta Academy managed to reach those children who most need its services, but the experience of the families and children has been overwhelmingly positive. From a completed survey we know that 88% of parents would recommend Invicta to other children or parents and 84% believe that their children’s understanding, and learning improved as a result of doing Invicta lessons. All classes polled had a strong majority of between 80% and 92% who wanted the Invicta lessons to continue.

A quantative analysis done by IMPACTED based on surveys done at the beginning of the summer and at the end of the summer by pupils, found that the children evidenced an overall mean improvement of 6.5% across all key stages in both English and Maths. In English there was an 8.65% improvement and in Maths a 5.2% improvement. The greatest change was seen in KS4 English which saw a 13.9% mean improvement.

“Furthermore, the end-of-program parents’ survey provided the opportunity for respondents to give qualitative feedback on what Invicta did well and what it could improve on… (with) respondents commenting positively on, amongst others, the quality of the lessons and teaching, the interactive aspect of the lessons and the fact that lessons were stand-alone and so missing a lesson did not detract from the learning experience.” Some quotes from our families and children follow:-

  • “Thank you so much for these sessions, they made my summer holiday so enjoyable and so worth it. I feel much more improved and confident with all these sessions.”

  • “I cannot thank Invicta and the team of teachers enough. Everyone was so patient, nurturing and encouraging. My children, one of which had been falling behind quite dramatically, has come away feeling incredibly confident about the next academic year ahead. I feel so lucky that we have been allowed to access such outstanding teaching that is free. I would not be able to afford to pay for private tuition. I would be more than happy to give donations (which I have done) for this to continue for all children, not matter what background they come from. Thank you so much, we have been so fortunate to be a part of this.”

  • “He (P) has missed 6 months of school due to suffering from Long COVID, so these lessons have been invaluable in helping re-introduce him to lessons and to catch-up. He really enjoyed participating and it's helped to build his confidence. We're hoping he will be able to return to school for a couple of lessons a day in September - so online lessons have been perfect.”

Staff also commented positively on the organisation and running of the lessons by the team, the rewarding experience of seeing large numbers of children helped and the strong team-spirit throughout the whole organisation. Examples of teacher feedback follows:-

  • “I have learnt new skills and learnt how to multitask in a whole new way. I enjoyed every lesson with Invicta. Connecting with so many children was very rewarding!”

  • “The fact we made such a significant impact across the country to so many children’s educational attainment was hugely rewarding and motivational and I would very much like to continue.”

This demonstrates that not only do the children benefit from the teaching they receive from Invicta National Academy but so do the teachers, who are all fully qualified and DBS checked with many returning to the classroom during term time.

Here we have a model of how supplementary education can be provided to those most in need using technology in a way that is beneficial to the students and teachers alike. Additionally, it is being delivered at an exceptional cost. Levelling up is happening in education with the Invicta model.

As some of our staff are volunteers and we rely on donations we would be most grateful if your readers would be kind enough to support us by making a donation here:-

Hilary Scott September 2021


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