BACK TO THE FUTURE
Primary School teacher Ben King offers some words of support
It is hard to look back and think about what the world has gone through since March. For as long as I live, I will never forget my colleagues and I standing around a screen in a classroom watching Boris Johnson announce schools would close.
It was a surreal moment and nobody really knew what to say or what do. How could we, even during the World Wars schools had mostly remained open. Saying goodbye to my class was a unique and humbling experience, not knowing when they would return or even if they would – though I think most of us had envisaged a return for all before September.
Fast forward five months and here we are. The memories of toilet roll shortages seem as distant now as events of many years ago, so much has been crammed into this time. However, as I write this all will be welcomed back in September in as normal a way as is possible. Staggered start and end times, individual stationery, year group bubbles and no whole school assemblies are just some of the strategy’s schools will employ to protect both staff and students.
The irony being this is what many schools were already doing in the one or two weeks before lockdown.
As restrictions eased slightly we opened our doors to as many of our students as physically possible. Year 6 were in, all of them, every day. R and Year 1 come in on a rota (remember the guidance was just that, guidance). And it enabled us to teach as many of our children as we possibly could, as much as we could.
After that first week we met – socially distanced – as a staff to check on the progress. From 4-year-olds to 11-year-olds, from our most experienced teachers to our NQTs, the message was crystal clear: They just want to get on. They just want to learn.
Now, of course, there are some children in our communities that will have had a more challenging time than others during Covid-19. However surely the emotional support, the pastoral care etc continued during lockdown? These children were not just left to fret emotionally and we invited many of our most vulnerable or those with SEN concerns into the school to have a look around (from external vantage points) as to what school would be like.
Both our SEN team, current and future class teachers spoke to children and supported and advised, encouraged and nurtured. We had no issues or concerns upon reopening. And let us not forget here, I am referring to what in most schools will be a relatively small percentage of children.
For the majority this transition will be straight forward and for many the biggest challenge will be the restriction of extra-curricular clubs due to not wanting year groups to mix.
Of course, we will offer emotional support where needed – like we would at all times – however children by and large will not want to return to school in September to a sorrowful teacher asking, ‘Are you all ok?’.
This will create an environment of self-perpetuating sadness and worry. Children need structure, they need normality and they need something to focus on. A return to as normal as possible curriculum as quickly as possible is integral to protecting our children’s emotions and ensuring they are happy and learning.
There will be those who struggle, but we can’t cite extreme cases as the norm. Teachers and staff want to move on from this awful experience whilst still being aware that it isn’t truly over and that we must follow guidance.
A whole week of welcome back work in September, dozens of PSHE lessons one after the other or endless circle time where we talk about our high and low moments will make the situation worse.
It will remove the excitement children are feeling about seeing their friends again and will reinforce any of the slight fears or anxieties children are holding. I hope to see as much normality as possible when September comes and I know as a child I would have too.