There’s been plenty of speculation today that schools might return in three weeks time.
While government ministers, education leaders and teaching unions will all have their views on the best way to make this happen, as parents we want what is best for our Wild Tribe.
The idea of an extended school day and additional pressure to catch-up on missed education can only lead to increased stress for children who have already been through so much in the past year.
Children have been isolated from friends and family, missed out on pivotal childhood events (such as birthday parties, clubs and school trips), and been forced to spend a significant amount of time inside and in front of screens.
To take children from this experience straight back into a longer school day, with implied pressure to ‘catch up’ seems, to me, to be unfair and potentially damaging to their already fragile mental health.
We must not underestimate the lasting impact of this pandemic experience on our children. What they need now, more than ever, is a return to some normality.
The time between a return to school (whenever that might be safe to happen) and the summer holidays should be spent enabling children to play, to restore friendships, and to rediscover activities away from their immediate homes.
Outdoor education can play a critical role in this restoration of school-based education.
As a primary school and Forest School teacher, I’ve seen first hand the restorative power of outdoor education and child-led play.
Allowing children to take back some of the control sorely lacking during this and previous lockdown experiences will lay a foundation for rebuilding their self-esteem and confidence. This will, in turn, pave the way for a positive return to more formal education and learning in the autumn.
We must not exclude older children from this approach either.
While there will undoubtedly be more academic pressure within secondary schools to get children back on track towards learning milestones, we must not forget how disruptive and uncertain this experience has been for teenagers too.
Here’s what I would love to see, in the weeks between a safe return to school and the start of the summer holidays:
1 – Renewed focus on the whole child model of education, where emotional and social development is as important as academic achievement.
2 – Commitment to get children outside into nature every day.
3 – Widespread suspension of summative assessment during this academic year, including SATS.
4 – Recognising children for their extraordinary bravery and resilience throughout this pandemic.
5 – Government commitment to fund the provision of the necessary adult to child ratios enabling personalised learning for all children.
The Department for Education has an opportunity in the coming weeks to set out a positive framework for schools and for our children.
As parents, we can help influence our children’s learning experience by speaking to schools and MPs to share our views on what is best for the next few months.