“What if…?” I hear many Smiles & Miles Tutoring parents say
Questions that parents are asking about their child’s education now that children are back at school.
“Back to school- Yay!” I hear many Smiles&Miles parents say. No more juggling working at home with learning at home. No more hearing, “muuuuum!” as you’re just about to sign into a Zoom call with a work Colleague. No more googling expanded noun phrases and equivalent fractions. No more day time washing up, tidying up, arguing siblings or expensive food bills! On the flip side of this, many parents are also missing that time together and the knowing exactly what their children are learning. I believe many parents have learned a lot during lockdown.
There is a national sigh of relief that our children will get back to some kind of normality; to benefit from a different learning environment and seeing their teacher friends again. Then the “what if?” creeps in. Many parents I talk to are understandably concerned about their children’s learning after having so much time away from school over the last year. Hopefully the answers to the following three most common questions I am asked will help to reassure and advise.
During the last couple of weeks of lockdown, my child seemed to lose confidence and enthusiasm for learning. Will he get that love of learning back again?
Firstly, this has been a strange time for children. The autumn term promised a road back to normality and continuity for children. And then they were working at home again. Children are tired. In the classroom, children usually spend around 20-30 minutes in each lesson working independently or with a group of peers. At home, many have had one to one intensive support from a parent and for those who have worked independently, trying to complete huge amounts of work in time to hand it in has been quite emotionally and physically exhausting.
Once children have eased back into the school routine, they will be experiencing lots of practical ways of learning. They will be able to talk about their learning with their peers; they will enthuse each other as they work together. Their teachers will be there to keep them on track and to reassure them.
And finally, mums and dads can go back to being mum and dad. Parents say to me, “well they’ll do this for you but for me? Not a chance!” Relationships have sometimes become strained between parents and children as they have taken on the “teacher” role during lockdown. Many parents lost enthusiasm near the end of lockdown just because they were physically and emotionally exhausted, and children lost enthusiasm too! We are thankful that at last, every morning, as our children walk into school, that the teacher is their teacher now! I believe that the majority of parents have a new found admiration and respect for teachers after the last year!
My child has not made much progress/has ‘fallen behind’ over the last year. How will they catch up?
The phrase- ‘fallen behind’ suggests that all children develop academically at the same rate. This really isn’t the case. Brain development is a process that happens at different times for different children. It isn’t about how clever they are, it’s about whether their brain is physically mature enough to take in and consolidate learning. This happens at different times for different children.
However, all children have missed out on some of the curriculum this last year and may have gaps in learning just because they haven’t been taught it yet. Most people would say that all children are in the same boat but actually this doesn’t really help. Children are individuals with different learning needs and attitudes to learning, and have had different learning experiences at home.
Schools are aware of this and will probably informally assess the children over the remaining weeks of this term. Teachers will look at where each child was academically just before Christmas and target any gaps in learning when they plan the learning. They will most probably be looking at children’s emotional well-being and address any issues with well-being activities. This assessment will inform them of potential candidates for “catch up” sessions.
The government has given schools pots of money to help children “catch up”. One pot is for small group catch up sessions where children go out of class to work with a teacher. The children chosen for this are ones who are not quite on track for expected attainment by the end of the academic year or those children who would benefit from a confidence boost.
The other pot is for The National Tutoring Program. This is online one to one tuition provided by national tutoring organisations for individual children and normally takes place during the school day.
I believe the first “catch up” in schools should be around children’s emotional well-being and happiness. This needs to be addressed in order to enable children to be ready to learn. Academic progress does not happen if a child is unhappy or lacks learning confidence and resilience. The majority of schools are addressing this and I have heard of some lovely well-being activities going on in school during the first week back.
My child seems so much more worried about everything to do with school now. How can we help?
Being at home for over half a term has made being at home the new norm for children. Fear of the unknown is bound to make many children worry about what being back at school will be like.
I would suggest talking with your child about what is worrying them and helping them to think of ways of dealing with them.Some children’s worries can seem quite small to us adults but they are actually very important to the children.
Obviously, not all worries can be resolved so easily; talking to your child’s teacher so that they are aware of any worries, would be beneficial. If teachers are aware of what may be worrying your child, they can keep an eye on them and help them to resolve any issues. Most schools welcome working in partnership with parents.
These are some books and resources that have been recommended to me as brilliant ways of talking about worries and “what ifs…? “with children.
– Even Superheroes have bad days (Shelly Becker)
– Tough Guys Have Feelings Too (Keith Negley)
– The Huge Bag of Worries (Virginia Ironside)
– My Monster and Me (Nadiya Hussain & Ella Bailey)
– Don’t Worry Be Happy – Anxiety Activity Book (Poppy O’Neill)
– You’re a Star – Self Esteem Activity Book (Poppy O’Neill)
-The Unworry Book –Alice James (Usborne Books)
-The Unhurry Book- Freya Harrison (Usborne Books)
-My Hidden Chimp- Professor Steven Peters (Studio Press)
And if you are asking “what if…? Then that makes you a good parent! Having your support makes such a positive difference to your child. I have spoken to so many mums who were worried about their children during both lockdowns and what I have noticed is that every one of them just wants their child to be confident and happy at school. Academic progress comes naturally when children feel confident and happy.
I sincerely hope that these suggestions have been useful.
At Smiles and Miles Tutoring, our tutors and myself have been very happy to help children with their learning confidence and progress and to support families with learning at home throughout this last difficult year. We now also help with children’s emotional wellbeing with referrals to our Smile’s trusted and experienced therapist friends who deliver psychoeducation sessions, bereavement counselling, family counselling and yoga therapy.
If you are interested in using any of our services then please get in touch with Sarah Oliver on 07741 252114 or for further information, visit our website or Facebook page