Returning to School in September

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Going back to school in September always feels like the beginning of a new chapter but this year will no doubt seem especially momentous for the vast number of children who last stepped into their classroom all those months ago back in March.

For those pupils who briefly attended at the end of the summer term, there will be a sense of familiarity with the new rules and changes. However, chances are even they will still be adjusting to the status quo until an acceptance of things continuing in this vein for the foreseeable future is reached.

A New Normal

A new teacher and possibly new classmates are the norm at the start of any school year but what will it feel like to return to an environment which has changed beyond this?

There’s so much to get to grips with; ‘bubbles’ within classrooms, and physical distancing, staggered lunchtimes and extra hygiene measures. New shoes and uniform might be in order but the likelihood is school will insist that bags are left at home!

In addition to any anxieties pupils may feel about these rules, as educational experts acknowledge, many children did not fare well with home learning in lockdown and their self-confidence and attitude to learning may have taken a blow as a result.

A Holistic Approach

Adopting a rights-based approach to recovery for education, such as that set out by Backtoschool.scot, focusing not simply on attendance at school, but on the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities, must be the way forward. In so doing, the goal is to build learner confidence and to re-engage with learning after this sustained period of upheaval.

Clearly, the emotional impact of going back to school shouldn’t be underestimated.

Reducing Anxiety

Understandably, some children may be anxious that it’s still too soon to go back-and not because they would prefer never to return at all, in spite of what they might say!

Parentclub emphasise that talking about safety measures can help reassure your child about any concerns they may have.

Explaining that more frequent cleaning as well as regular hand washing before and after activities (such as meal times, break times and PE), are just some of the measures schools are putting in place to reduce infection risk, will be a step towards alleviating their anxiety.

Don’t forget that teachers themselves will be able to reinforce positive messages to ensure this transition goes as smoothly as possible.

Getting Back on Track

Older children especially may worry about having missed so many classes and also how to cope with the demands of their school work. Supporting their wellbeing should take priority over homework and grades which is why it’s important to give them space and allow them time to relax. Everyone learns differently, so help them identify their own ‘study style’.

Primary School

Primary age children will benefit from knowing what to expect on their return to school. As a parent, focusing on the positives can change their outlook from one clouded by worry to enthusiasm. Emphasise the prospect of being reunited with friends and resuming favourite lessons or activities. Kids will also appreciate being allowed to make choices, as this re-establishes a sense of normality in their every day routine, even if it’s centred around something as simple as what to have in their lunch box.

Starting High School

Starting high school is something of a milestone in any child’s life but Year 7 pupils may feel under additional pressure as they adjust this September after a disrupted final year at primary.

Helping them feel prepared can lead to an increased sense of being in control of events, so make sure they have the necessary equipment, such as bags and stationery-as per school guidelines that is!

Be involved too-ask about their timetable, teachers’ names and new friends they have made.

Of course, there will always be a fine line between showing an interest and being nosy as far as your child is concerned!

Moving Forward

As The Children’s Parliament has highlighted, the period of lockdown shifted the balance of children’s lives. As yet, we may not fully appreciate the extent to which this has been the case.

What is clear, is the fact that the way in which our children are educated is set to change permanently. For one thing, experts agree that blended learning will become an integral feature of student life going forward.
Any overhaul of the system by rights must incorporate a commitment to the ongoing emotional wellbeing of the children who will be impacted by it.