Protecting time for reflection as schools re-open, will allow staff to:
- Consider and explore the experience of lockdown both at an individual level and across the school community
- Identify positives and what has been learnt from the experience
- Identify staff and children who may need extra support going forward
- Enhance teacher resilience by promoting teachers’ sense of belonging and access when they need to seek help
- Consider what needs to be achieved, identify the challenges, develop a plan and a timescale that works
- Consider how everyone’s emotional and physical health will be safeguarded and enhanced
- Facilitate management and staff teams to develop a vision for the future
- Consider how to engage all children in the plans to return to school
- Consider how the school community can mark significant events (such as transitions)
- Consider what lessons have been learnt from schools that have been open and the experiences of home schooling
A recovery curriculum
Some guiding principles for reflection
Relationships – Anticipate that some pupils will react differently to school and expect that relationship will have adjusted or even restored.
Community – Take account of the children’s experiences, what they have been doing and have a plan to listen to their accounts.
Transparency – Sharing our plans, answering questions, consult and support pupils to help them understand what’s next.
Incorporating Experiences – Asking questions about how learning has taken place and then being able to focus on the skills for learning and make them explicit to re-build confidence as learners.
Space – Take and give time to focus on the wider issues and don’t set an unmanageable pace to ‘catch-up’
Reflections on different perspectives
How are we recognising children’s experiences as they return to school?
Children have been learning at home and information from parents will be helpful for teaching staff to understand where the children have been in their learning journey. It is important to acknowledge what they have been doing and be a ‘witness’ to their experiences. Encouraging everyone to share their story of the pandemic so far will provide such acknowledgement.
Parents and caregivers could be asked to share photos and videos of what their children have been doing at home. These might include art projects from home (such as the popular NHS rainbows), physical activities, such as on-line PE workouts, dens made from duvets and pillows, Logo constructions etc. These examples provide immediate conversation starters in which we can praise their creativity and highlight skills that are transferable to the classroom.
What opportunities are open to us in schools?
Despite the many negative experiences of Covid-19, Post Traumatic Growth Theory research highlights the potential for positive growth and development as a consequence of trauma and challenging experiences. Focussing on some of the positives can be an opportunity to build confidence, for example children have been learning through the internet and social media has been used as a way of sharing and enhancing learning, with evidence showing that some learners are learning to independently consider what they are learning, which enhances their understanding.
How can school leaders support their communities?
Headteachers and school leaders understand that the children and not be picking up where they left off. A time for reflection to consider what the children have experienced and compassionate leadership is crucial to implementing a recovery process. Re-establishing routines and the framework for learning will take time.
The priority and joy for many children at this time will be seeing their friends and getting to share their experience with their peer group. Child development relies on meaningful interactions. A period of non-attendance will have caused new concerns and compassionate leadership will take account of, and meet these needs.
How will young people be feeling?
Parents have been encouraged to establish clear routines in home education. Children need to know what to expect. If children do not know what is happening next, they may become anxious and find concentration difficult. The loss of routine and structure may be traumatic for some children and teachers and parents may find that their young people are experiencing feelings of panic.
Some children who found group interactions difficult in the past may be reluctant to leave the relative safety of home for what they perceive to be a more challenging group. This reluctance may manifest as challenging or withdrawn behaviour.
A loss of freedom is constraining for teenagers in particular, who rely heavily on their peers to support their development of self-image and self-esteem. Their place and role within a group ad the interactions that take place help them test their self-image against the rules of their peer groups and wider community.
Many people have a sense of loss about their previous plans, such as sitting examinations. Their planned futures have been changed in some way and compassionate staff will be able to recognise and understand what has been lost.
Children and young people experiencing loss or fear may also be impacted upon by anxiety. In addition, some young people may have experienced trauma or bereavement. They may also have had to absorb adult anxiety. Coping with these feelings can mean that to the young person, formal learning may be less consequential. Anxiety in young people is not conducive to learning, thinking and reasoning skills. Sleep quality or amount of sleep can then lead to a child reeling that they are struggling to cope. Although most schools will need a holistic recovery for all, some children will need a more individualised approach.
How can staff manage their own recovery?
The importance of relationships in teaching is significant and learning is evidently more effective with positive interactions. Teachers need support to manage their own well-being in order to support their students. Staff well-being measures will help to ensure that staff are able to cope with the pressures and embrace the needs of the many and the vulnerable. Staff need to be able to access support when needed and school leaders may need to consider how best to structure a framework of support which allows teachers to feel that they are well-supported.