New learning support model developed in Ottawa expanding into Lanark, Leeds and Grenville

By Alex Black

A new learning support model developed by the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa (CASO) at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is showing promising results in improving school performance for at-risk youth.

The 'Pod Model for Learning Support Program' was designed to help students in the care if CASO, aged 14-18, succeed in their remote studies. Through the program, each student is teamed up with a teacher on contract with CASO, a youth worker or a teacher candidate from the University of Ottawa.

Teachers and youth workers collaborate to create personal academic achievement plans for youth in partnership with each student's school and ensure students have the required technology, supplies and supports to succeed. 

“The Pod Model supported me during periods of isolation, at a time when my mental health wasn't great and I had given up on school,” says 18-year-old Ashley Ezard, a former Pod Model for Learning Support program student. “My Pod teacher encouraged me to keep going, to focus on school and my assignments. She's a person I can trust and rely on for help and guidance. I felt like she really cared. I'm now back in school and applying to college  — something I didn't think I would be doing before going through this program.”

According to CASO, preliminary results from the program show high school credit completion rates increased by 12 per cent among students considered to be most in need of support.

“These results are very encouraging, given what we know about the negative effects of remote learning on student engagement,” said CASO Executive Director Kelly Raymond. “One could assume that youth in the care of CASO, who have increased risk factors, would have been even more vulnerable to the negative effects of remote learning — the Pod Model shows that with the right supports, students can thrive under adversity.”

While some students have returned to in-person learning, CASO is continuing to operate the program, which offers support to more than 150 youth in its care.

Due to the success of the program, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS) is supporting the CASO in supporting the expansion of the learning model to Family and Children's Services of Lanark, Leeds and Grenville.


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