How long did we have to prepare? Should this change how we work with year 6/7 in the future?

As we start to think about going ‘back to school’ after the Easter break I have been doing a lot of soul searching and thinking about how our way of life, living, working and learning have changed dramatically. Through this thought process I have realised that in a small way, this is how the children in our care have been feeling for years!

We could have been warned, told, even shown how much our lives would change during a period of ‘lock down’ We may have had a practice day or 2, we might have had some help to use Skype/Zoom for the first time ever, possibly even had had the opportunity to try out teaching our own children whilst trying to prepare work for our own classes. Can we honestly say that this would have been enough to help us to feel completely ready though? I know I found questions arising on a daily basis about what I was expected to do/feel/behave. I am a grown woman, a professional one at that but I needed help! Luckily I am confident (some might say a bit too much so!) to ask for help as and when I have needed it. Can we be sure the children in our care feel like this? We have been fortunate that our employers have been patient and caring and have allowed us the time to get used to this new way of working and tried to put as little pressure on us as possible. It made me think – do we give the children in year 7 this extended period of adjustment?

I could go on about how we should have spent a little more time helping children to adapt to completely new way of working over the years but instead I am going to look at what we can do in the future. You might be thinking this is all a little over the top, to be fair for some of our pupils it might be. I think we all know of more than one student that have really struggled with the move to secondary though and for them, the adjustments have been as extreme as we are finding this home working!

I have put some thoughts together, preparations we need to consider IF the pupils do not have the chance to go back to life in year 6 and therefore skip from March to September in a heartbeat. Each of these probably deserve a dedicated post but for now I will start with the ‘headlines’:

  • How can we help the children to know the school?
    • Layout – I have of heard many schools creating video tours to put online, please remember though, not all of your children will have access to this. Another consideration here: how many of you have watched 360 degree tours of buildings/houses even holiday spots just before you visit the real thing? I’m going to leave that thought there!
    • Teachers – Once again hearing great things about videos going online. It’s nice for children to have a friendly face that they remember but is that friendly face enough without real interaction? Would some sort of information about that teacher help too, could some ‘get to know me’ bios get sent home as reminders?
    • Timetables – over the years I have spoken to lots of pupils and one thing that really throws them is the timetable. They have never seen one before! This year though, maybe they have! Our house has got a mini timetable on the wall in the kitchen, do we need to adjust our language? Is a timetable just a new routine? I am pretty sure that word has been used a lot in homes up and down the country!
  • How can we help the parents prepare?
    • Uniform- this is something that i have only recently started to consider. So many workers have been financially adversely affected by the virus and subsequent lock-down. We all know of families that find it difficult to source and pay for the correct uniform and shoes under normal circumstances. Should we put some thought into this sooner rather than later? Are our ‘normal’ rules and consequences appropriate this year?
    • Contact information – it is easy to forget that parents go through as much of a change as the children do when they move from the safety of the primary school, where they know all the staff, probably by first name some cases! To secondary where there are all of a sudden 20 plus adults in close contact with their child on a daily basis and they have no idea who to turn to should they need to. Add to this to the fact that they will not have had the opportunity to air these fears with the staff they are already confident with, they may not even have the chance to even realise it will be an issue!
  • Starting in September – this section really will need it’s own post soon, for now just some thoughts.
    • First day/Induction days. How are the pupils expected to arrive at their first destination? Are they escorted, is the building pointed at by staff/other pupils? If they are arriving in school by themselves for the first time ever, having left home alone for the first time ever (most primary schools do not tend to allow children to walk to and from school unaccompanied until around now!) are we then asking them to walk into a room full of possible strangers, also unaccompanied. I know lots of adults that would really struggle with that at the best of times!
    • Groupings – If you are lucky enough to have received quality data from the primary schools you may have a rough idea where each child sits academically. This will not be perfect, we know that. What it is, is a start. I have posted before about how I feel baseline tests can actually damage a schools understanding of a child ability. In these circumstance I argue that this is even more so. Every single child will have had a very different experience of schooling over the last 6 months. I will be writing about ways around this but for now I implore you, do not fall foul of the ‘we must test ASAP trap’. I honestly do not believe it will work!
  • One other consideration:
    • Illness and bereavement- I think the reality is that many of us will be faced with the sad fact that as a family we will suffer loss. Under normal circumstances between now and July there would be support on hand from primary schools and a way of sharing the information with secondary. This may not be the case this year. I am by no means suggesting that every child has or needs counselling and I am sure there is already a plan in place if and when you find out about such unfortunate events. We need to be mindful though, for some we may not find out and although this is always the case, this year the numbers could be much higher.

As with all my posts I hope this just brings some food for thought and helps schools and possibly parents through the troubling time that is transition.