How can we support children to thrive in light of the recent changes to schooling?

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Since March 2020, we have all experienced unprecedented changes to our day to day lives. From 20 March to 31 May 2020, school sites were closed to the majority of pupils. Education transitioned from the classroom to the home, which meant extraordinary changes for the ways in which the vast majority of children were learning.

During this period of home learning, children had to adapt quickly to their new learning environments, in the most part working in isolation, with many children requiring new levels of independence, and adapting to new ways of engaging with their teachers and classmates.  At Sydenham High Prep School, pupils quickly learned to navigate around their online learning platforms and they demonstrated new levels of engagement, independence and resilience towards their learning; all important contributors to high levels of progress.  They regularly referred to themselves as ‘Giraffe Girls’, standing tall, not being afraid to try new things.  They talked about their ‘Growth Mindsets’, not giving up when things became difficult.  In addition to this, the creativity and ingenuity shown by pupils was astonishing and as confidence levels in online learning rose, levels of progress continued to rise for many children also.

In June and July, as children started to return to school, they continued to show these new levels of independence and resilience, quickly adapting again to new practices and routines designed to keep them safe, including new classroom environments, new ways of learning and new hygiene practices.

Certainly, these changes have brought some limitations.  Children may not be able to handle shared books at school as frequently as before, however there are lots of other ways to support children with their reading. Whilst helping children to develop a love of books is of course what we hope to achieve, books are only some of the valuable resources we use when teaching children to read. Comics, magazines, webpages, signs, recipes and instructions are all useful reading materials.  This leaflet, ‘7 Top Tips to Support Reading at Home’ from the Education Endowment Foundation offers some great tips for supporting children with their reading.

Children may not be able to sing in choirs, or in groups indoors as easily at the moment however, now could be the perfect time to learn a new musical instrument.  Many music teachers are now offering online tuition, which allows greater flexibility in when and where these lessons can take place.  Learning a musical instrument is such a valuable skill and is one which offers children and young people opportunities to enjoy music, to collaborate with others, to aim towards a goal and to develop their musical skills.

In light of the recent changes to our lives, many children will have taken these changes largely in their stride, however for some children, the idea of a return to school-based learning may bring feelings of fear or anxiety.  This article, ‘How to Help a Child with Anxiety about School’ by the London-based psychotherapist Fiona Gray, offers helpful suggestions about how to support children with school-based anxiety.

In considering how to best support children with the recent and potentially ongoing changes to school life, we can look back at how brilliantly children have already adapted over this past year.  By continuing to support children to be creative and innovative in their approaches to new challenges, we can help them to become fantastic problem-solvers and to develop a sense of ownership for their own learning.  By continuing to encourage children, especially when things don’t go as planned, we can support them to be fearless and resilient. By continuing to model kindness and patience, we encourage children to do the same.  In supporting children to develop all of these qualities, we are supporting them to be confident and adaptable learners, developing some of the most valuable skills and attitudes they will need to be happy and successful both in school and beyond.

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