Returning to School
As schools prepare for more students to come through the doors it might be a good time to reflect on what has been almost a year of life with Covid-19. Most of us never imagined many students would spend the year mainly learning at home or those attending school would be learning under restrictions that stifled collaborative learning experiences or the development of friendships.
Though it’s often easier to see what Covid-19 has taken away, its well worth looking at what it has helped to develop.
Most children and young people living with a chronic or acute health condition have found themselves learning at home for periods of time throughout their school life, not just during the last year. What Covid-19 has done is show schools that this can be delivered imaginatively and most importantly, collaboratively. At its best, students at home can access what their class mates in school are doing in real time. They can contribute to discussions or answer questions as if they were physically present. The value of this isn’t simply keeping up with work; it’s about maintaining their place in the community bubble that is their tutor group or maths class.
A school community is more that a group of individuals doing Maths, or Art and Drama in order to achieve a GCSE. A school community is a place where children and young people learn about being part of something outside the family unit; it’s where they gain skills and confidence to become independent. Every day at school involves listening, sharing thoughts and ideas, making choices, negotiating, taking responsibility, the list goes on. These skills are embedded in the life of a school, in the interactions with class mates and staff and to some extent in the curriculum itself. If you can’t be included in the life of the school and your connection is merely the curriculum content then you miss out on vital skills for life.
As schools welcome back most students next week we have two requests:
Firstly, school is so much more than curriculum content; it’s the connections between people and all the things that help support our mental health and wellbeing. Kindness, tolerance, empathy and laughter will be needed. These things can’t be crammed into catch up classes or extra home work. A focus on connections and wellbeing needs to come first. Good mental health and wellbeing will support curriculum catch up in the end. Getting the foundations right has never been more important. With a projected rise in the number of children and young people likely to need some help and support with their mental health, planning for a whole school approach to wellbeing will certainly pay dividends.
Secondly, don’t forget some children and young people will not return to the classroom just yet, they may have a physical or mental health need that requires time at home or in hospital. It’s vitally important we keep these students in mind.
If we can use the skills, technology and mindset that allowed so many to learn at home during the various lockdowns to make school life for those with health needs more inclusive and less restricted then that’s a significant positive to emerge from living life with Covid-19.