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Re-engage, Re-connect and Re-establish

    05 March 2021

Re-engage, Re-connect and Re-establish

If you listen to the political narrative and media sound-bites about schools re-opening, they are all about children needing to catch-up, but a slower approach when schools return may reap longer-term benefits. Think of the tortoise and the hare! The lesson there? Slow and steady wins the race.

As schools plan for reopening and they focus on social distancing, bubbles, one way systems, testing, ventilation, risk-assessments and much more, there is a narrative that there is no time to go slow; we must rush to help pupils “catch up” on all the learning they have lost during the lockdowns.

As I watched the news on Monday I was struck by one commentator’s assertion that children will be behind in their learning and he even talked about closing the “gap”! What gap? Who says there is a gap? Adults? Teachers? Parents? The guy on the telly?!

So widespread is this concern, that longer school days and summer schooling have been proposed, to help make up for lost learning . Yet many professionals have been concerned with this approach.

Of course, a ‘gap’ is only there if we put it there! It is our generation that sets the expectations on the next generation so the idea that children need to catch up at school due to lockdown is down to us and our expectations. In reality, it is careless to suggest such things, as Dr O’Hare, co-chair of the British Psychological Society puts it: “it suggests children have ‘one shot’ at their education and that puts them under even more pressure to perform academically after what has been a challenging and unprecedented time for everyone.”

On Wednesday evening I chaired a meeting of all the senior leaders in the Bellevue Education group. The only agenda item was ‘Re-opening’. The discussion was collegiate and pacey and we had an opportunity to bring together 20+ school leaders who shared their strategies, concerns and hopes about the next few weeks and months.

Schools in the group have the autonomy to organise themselves to suit their needs so approaches to re-opening differed, but, the overriding and unifying philosophy was that children must have time; time to re-connect, re-engage and re-socialise.

I read an article last week that said: “if you over-calculate what has been lost during lockdown and then try to dream up magic solutions that will repair that, and over- diagnose problems, you end up with overly complicated intervention packages when, instead, if you just take time in the classroom, it would repair itself.”

My son had something to say recently about school re-opening, he has been in school for most of lockdown, but as he spoke I remembered that our children are very resilient and can adapt quickly but they need opportunities. He told me that he misses his friends, he misses being together; he said, “we are still getting all the work to do but we don’t get the fun anymore!” – that’s not strictly true but he is 7! What they are missing is the informal side of learning that goes on inside school.

At Sherfield we will make sure children have the time to reconnect with one another and get used to school life again. If we don’t then they risk missing the opportunity to rebuild their social confidence and re-igniting those all-important peer interactions.

There are some significant challenges ahead for our children and our community. Children will need time to re-adjust and rebuild the resilience that a busy school day requires. They will need to adjust to the physical as well as the emotional demands of being in school and as parents you are probably going to be on the receiving end of some tired tears in the coming weeks.

We will be doing all we can to help children reconnect with each other through assemblies, the Enrichment programme, PSHE initiatives, out on the sports field, structured play and meditation, outdoor learning, and just getting away from the classroom to let off steam!

Our children have been well served and done themselves proud during this unprecedented time. Now it is time to welcome our community back together; parents, pupils and staff alike. Let’s give everyone the chance to re-engage, re-connect and re-establish our social connections; and let’s hope that that guy on the telly comes to understand that slow and steady really does win the race.

Have a great weekend.

Kind Regards

Chris James-Roll

Deputy Head

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