Should the children be coming back?
Today’s jobs in school have included painting line markings on the playground, sticking marking tape on the classroom floors and putting up social distancing signs ready for Monday morning. In the last couple of weeks we have made detailed plans and communicated them to our parents, the teachers have made videos for the children to welcome them back and explain how things will need to be organised, so in many ways we are now ready.
But I don’t feel ready. The overall feeling I have though is one of unease, of doubt that this is the right thing for our children and our staff. We have repeatedly heard that the government are ‘following the science’ and that it is safe to start admitting children in playgroup, reception, year 1 and year 6, but what they don’t seem to appreciate is the level of confidence that the public has in the opinions of their scientists. We have all heard so many opinions that contradict the view of the government that a level of public doubt has got to be expected by even the staunchest supporter of Boris Johnson.
The amount of ‘guidance’ that has been sent to us by the government can also be seen as undermining their view that increasing the number of children in school is safe at this point. As a result of this guidance we have had to strip out classrooms, remove resources and restrict the movement of the children and staff, all to make school ‘as safe as possible’ to such an extent that the school that our children will be returning to is going to look nothing like the school that they were attending in March.
The impact of these enforced changes on the quality of education that we will be able to provide is going to be huge, and our focus for the foreseeable future cannot be on catching up on lost learning. The suggestion from the government that children in the selected year groups should return to school now because they are “mastering the essential basics” and that “early education lays the foundation for lifelong learning” is in my view very disrespectful of primary school teachers and furthermore shows a lack of understanding of how children learn. I was also under the impression that children’s progress is now measured from when they start KS1 to when they leave Primary School at the end of Year 6, which has been a step forward in recent years, and therefore I struggle to see how a few weeks gap is going to have any impact in the long term.
So what about the government’s other view, that children, particularly vulnerable children, are losing out socially by not being in school? I can see some truth in this up to a point, but the social benefit from coming back now surely is going to be impacted by the changes that we are having to put in place in school. We are deeply concerned by how the new learning environment is going to affect all our children, but particularly so in terms of those with anxiety or any special needs.
In light of all this I am left with the question of whether the education we are currently able to put into place in school is better than the remote learning that we have been running since lock down began. Thanks to a huge effort from the teachers, combined with amazing support from our parents, we have been able to maintain #TheWookeyWay over the past 10 weeks. It has been challenging for all of us, but a strong partnership between home and school has enabled our children to thrive in extremely difficult circumstances. The government have acknowledged that school cannot now be as it was, and we do not have the confidence in their science to take anything less than tiny steps back into the classroom, so would our children be better off at present continuing with the home learning that we have been providing, or would they be better back in school? I really don’t know.