Back to school…or not

Schools are starting to outline how reopening might work. There are a lot of things for parents to weigh up…

books at secondary school


Schools and nurseries are preparing – or not – to return and that means a lot of communication with parents. My kids are in three different schools so it is a part-time job to keep on top of what is going on in addition to homeschooling, etc.

Only son’s school is only returning for reception, year one and year six from the middle of the first week of June. Everyone will be in bubbles of three kids. These will social distance from everyone else. PE will be outside [it doesn’t say what happens if it rains, but I’m guessing PE gets cancelled]. School finishes before lunch. Pick-up and drop-offs are staggered and parents have to be on time.

I’m not convinced all this effort is going to work or be much of a positive experience for anyone involved. I think more effort should have been put into getting parents and teachers on board before the announcement was made – it feels very rushed – and, at the very least, proper testing and tracking put in place so we have an idea of where the virus is most prevalent. One consequence of the mishandling of this is the reports I’ve heard of teaching assistants resigning at some primary schools. Teaching assistants will surely be crucial in all of this, helping with taking kids to the toilet, making sure they wash their hands, keeping utensils clean etc.  Another problem is that many have seen their hours reduced due to budget cuts in the lead-up to lockdown.

Only son is in year five so it looks like September is a more realistic bet for him. In the meantime, he has been getting on with the tasks being set at home with less resistance than in the early days, although he still tends to answer maths questions that say, for instance, explain your answer with the word ‘no’.

Yesterday’s English exercise was to write a story about a creature. He chose a ghost. Appearance: “a shadow of their former selves”; diet: “ghosts don’t eat”; habitat: “a pit of fire and abandoned research facilities”; behaviour: “shy, quiet and powerful”. He described how they were “completely harmless” and that they can’t hurt you. This was followed by: “The most extraordinary thing about ghosts is that they can produce balls of shadow, trapping you in an endless mental vortex full of decay and death”…

I have to say that, since the early days of this whole get them to do some school stuff at home thing, I am beginning to find it quite entertaining reading what he produces.

Secondary school

The same cannot be said of secondary school. Both teenagers look like they are not enjoying working from home at all. They miss people. Daughter two, who was doing well at school before all of their worlds imploded with the loss of their sister and COVID-19, has decided university is not for her and is totally lost and demotivated. Daughter three is really struggling with everything and cannot begin to articulate it. I feel helpless to do anything about it. All I can do is be here when they both need me.

We’re still waiting to hear from daughter three’s school which only has year 10 to worry about and is fairly small, but they seem to be putting staff and children’s safety first, which seems eminently responsible.

Daughter two’s school is much bigger and many children travel by tube and train to get there. They sent a long email about face to face contact for year 12. It sounded very complicated. Basically, students can come in for a short well being one to one in the first week of June. Then after that they can opt to have 45-minute subject sessions either one to one or in groups of no more than five socially distanced students, with staggered start times and parents need to be on hand for pick-ups.

There is a one-way system and toilets will have two-metre lines outside them and will operate on an one in one out basis. The school stresses that the sessions are supplements to the real teaching, which will still be online. It all sounds like not much fun and not really much use to parents who are working, unless they are able to work from home – which kind of defeats at least one of the purposes.

Still, we are in new territory and there are many things to weigh up based on individual needs, from education to physical and mental health. And, when it comes to older children, it is also important to discuss the whole thing with them too.

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