End of term chaos

Schools are crashing towards the end of term, with constant changes and confusion the name of the game.

Picture of books and pencils in front of school board


While Scottish schools are already past the finishing post, those in other parts of the UK must be dragging themselves towards the summer. There has been a lot of talk online this week about the rapid spread of the new variant around schools in some areas, leading to closures of bubbles and the same old routine we are all too familiar with. Some young people are doing their mocks. It’s a lot for them to cope with after spending most of the last two years being in and out of school.

Each exam year that has gone through the mill over the last two years has been affected in different ways. My daughters would have had GCSEs and A Levels this year. They spent much of the early part of the year complaining that the year before – when Covid started – had it easier because they didn’t have to do their exams or the continuous testing that their years have been subjected to or spend months sitting on their beds staring at the walls. Instead, they got algorithms and we know the issues that caused.

I would think this year’s lower sixth and year 10s are doing similar comparisons, given much of the work for GCSEs and A Levels gets done in the preceding year. It’s not a competition to see whose education was the worst affected though and everyone has faced different individual circumstances. No-one has come through this unscathed and even being out of school is no solace. All the end of school occasions have been cancelled or gone online. Schools are scrambling to cope. We were told the primary school fete was cancelled, but the year six play was going ahead outside. But now, following more advice, it is going to be filmed. It must be total chaos.

And then there are the parents who are totally exhausted by the whole thing, not just the closures and the constant changes and dashed hopes, but the emotional impact on their kids. And for many, with the kids home again, there is the need, of course, to revert to homeschooling while working – if you’re lucky enough to be able to work from home – just at the time when many are also contemplating what on Earth to do to cover the summer holidays when they may have used up much of their leave allowance earlier in the year and there are concerns about mixing in new bubbles while the virus is still spreading fast.

Every day seems to bring school updates, which are clearly more exhausting to write than receive, but nevertheless add to the sense that we are crashing towards the summer.

My son is in year six and only yesterday we were told that the class is having SATs-like tests to give the secondary schools something to work with. The lack of warning upset many parents who would have ideally liked time to prepare kids who might be anxious about testing. I suspect the school thought less time to prepare might lessen anxiety and they may well be right or maybe they just plain forgot to tell the parents because they were too busy rearranging so many other things. There have been emails about online induction days, for example, and whether year sixes can do them at school or not to help working parents and just general confusion about everything.

The school fete was cancelled, but is now taking place without parents on Friday with ice cream and hoopla and a visiting farm. To a great extent, this shows the amazing creativity of schools, able to pivot to filmed events, visiting farms and the like in days. That is the legacy of the last year. But there is no doubt that it is utterly exhausting – even just keeping up with the emails is tiring. I hope the teachers get some much needed rest – although I know my son is very excited to be attending a summer school programme his secondary school is putting on.

Many of them are, of course, parents. The majority are women and we know mums have borne the brunt of the homeschooling/childcare scenario so they have also had to reorganise their working lives around this pandemic. We will get to the holidays, even if they throw up new challenges. For now, it’s just about taking one day and one change at a time. Hopefully, next year will seem like a breeze by comparison.

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