49 weeks have passed since the initial lockdown and the start of what has been an incredibly difficult year for so many. As an educator, I am well aware of the difficulties that parents have faced and can vividly remember various phone calls and other communications with people struggling. The respect of what it takes to teach became very apparent to many, very quickly. Summer came along and there was some respite. But not for all; and not for long.
We are now all ready (or should be) for the return of all. I recall conversations had when I had the pleasure of working with members of the Sewell Group some years ago. Conversations and reflections of how successful people count the minutes in the world of business whereas those in local government tend to count the weeks and even months. I must admit, I do find it incredibly frustrating when actions are delayed for no good reason – JFDI.
Come Monday (in most schools) the children will be back. There is much going about at the moment about ‘Catch Up’ programs, tutoring and ‘Recovery Plans’. I think it is a great shame that presumptions are made that the children have had ‘a year of lost learning’. It is a load of codswallop in my opinion. The children will have learnt a great deal and there is actually a possibility that they will have not had any lost learning. Making predictions, assumptions and being generally negative is what many are. Why don’t we do what we normally do at the beginning of a year with a new class: set them some challenging work; have high expectations, with no excuses; and plan the next steps according to the needs. Great teachers do this every year, every week and to good effect. A very real example of this was evident over lockdown… a well-known organisation adapted their resources to go over what the children were assumed to have missed – it was work on fractions. That was given to a class and they flew through it and were bored. The lost learning happened because other thought they had lost learning. Different contexts exist so let’s not assume everyone has been asleep for the past year. So many children, I’d have thought most, have learnt a lot.
So come Monday, I hope many welcome the children back and do not starting treating the children as if they learnt nothing. Make sure they are comfortable being back; had a load of conversations, discussions, debates and cheery moments. Please don’t test them, assess and try to figure out in the first few days what they do know and have missed. Imagine going back with the excitement of seeing friends – possibly being really excitement and giddy and being told to complete a test paper. In my opinion, not the best way to start back after eleven weeks since Christmas begun. I know there will be schools, leaders, Trusts, Assessment leads and others that are so far removed they will be asking for the data, but be strong for the children that need you. You can get the information that they need fairly quickly, but with just three weeks until Easter, is this not a perfect opportunity to work on the social and emotional well-being of the children? Do the staff not need it too? For primary, there are no SATs nor phonics nor other assessments required so really, what is the point?
At the end of the day we have to do what the powers that be demand. Hopefully they understand child development. Hopefully the respect is there across phases and the respect for the successes of the past. Given permission, I believe the great leaders in our schools will do what is right and what in time, will be best for the children.
Enjoy the last day before returning on Monday, those in education. Parents – thank you for hanging in there and doing whatever you did. You may think you didn’t do the best for your child but if you did your best and kept loving them, that is enough. Romesh (comedian) said beautifully in the early stages of lockdown, shame on those trying to use the pandemic to get ahead – spot on, quite right and still so true. During lockdown, remote learning and the stop/start/stutter manner of life, I’ve taken the opportunity to go cycling every Sunday. I want to run more, enjoy family time and whilst I have failed miserably, read!
Enjoy Sunday and come Monday, smile, thank people and don’t revert to the old ways that were ineffective. Embrace new learnt skills because do you know what? We have not lost a year of education!