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Supporting vulnerable students during lockdown

April 8, 2020

This article was created during the first lockdowns in April, 2020.

What makes a child vulnerable (moreso than others) at a time like this?

Everyone is vulnerable right now. Yet we know that in our schools and communities there are young people that go without basic things on a “normal” day, absent pandemic. Often the structures that schools provide children buffer the impacts of homes where structure is lass present.

During school closures, these students may be subject to lower support and autonomy to fulfill basic physiological and psychological needs

Here are some examples of barriers for young people that make them vulnerable in this age of school closures:

  • Low access to basic needs like adequate nutrition
  • Different family structures can make it difficult to regulate sleep, exercise and other positive habits
  • Crowded homes – some homes have up to 12 children competing for space, resources
  • Caregivers may be stressed or anxious about external factors such as finances, job security, home and accommodation security – this stress can compromise positive parenting behaviours
  • Low access to technology and other mechanisms for social connection and learning at home
  • Caregivers may be less physically and/or psychologically available to provide secure attachment and connection

Tips and suggestions for teachers to support your vulnerable students

In terms of learning: High Expectations + High Support is the gold standard. Consider:

  • How does high support translate in today’s circumstances?
  • How might we use compassion, today, to allow us to temper our expectations for students who have barriers that we are unable to mitigate
  • What forms of communication are most effective?
  • Do students have access to email? Can we as a school supply a basic mobile phone? Do we need to top-up their phone with credit for mobile data? Can we send internet dongles or other devices home during lockdown?
  • Are there any other support mechanisms you can tap into for the child’s whānau? Here is a non-exhaustive list of links for those educators in New Zealand:



If you are in contact with students for online learning, consider how to frame your interaction with them. See this resource for some ideas on co-regulating with your vulnerable students, from Berry Street Education.

Notes for teachers worried about these students

Similar advice applies to you about maintaining your wellbeing, especially:

  • Focus on the things you can control. Further to that there some things you can influence by educating and informing others. Further to that, many things that happen in our kids’ homes are beyond your control. That is okay. We do what we can.
  • Where needed, exercise self-compassion. Take it easy on yourself. Draw on evidence where you are doing good work to support your students. There is plenty of proof there!

Feel free to share these infographics with your young people: