We’re still in a state of uncertainty. Full recovery will be a long slow journey and will not be achieved in a week or even six weeks. On that journey we need to explicitly address the full social and emotional impact of lockdown on children, teachers and parents by going forward in constructive, positive and perhaps new ways. Anxieties may need to be addressed but in the context of recovery.
Support for children’s recovery.
The children may have fallen ‘behind’ academically but unless we focus as a priority on their social and emotional needs they may never develop their full potential. We must explicitly help them to restore their relationships, re-create positive attitudes and behaviour and re-build their self-confidence and resilience. To do this the school needs a PSE programme that uses interactive and fully inclusive teaching methods. All children must actually experience mutual support and respect through interactive PSE work, not just talk about its importance. ‘Learning for Living’ uses developmental group work methods specifically devised to improve relationships, attitudes and behaviour and it will help teachers to address motivational issues, such as attitudes towards work. The first module focuses on establishing mutually supportive relationships within the class and the second module, relationships within the school. This module will be particularly uplifting for the whole-school ethos. Subsequent modules on health, family and friendship, use the same inclusive techniques to deliver the PSE curriculum and continue the recovery.
Children have experienced the anxiety of their parents, as well as feeling the loss of social interaction. The tone of the interactive work should not dwell on anxiety or fear or loss of freedom. Instead it should re-construct positive interaction and place these extreme feelings in the range we all experience. However, some children who have experienced the illness of family or friends or bereavement, and they may need to express their anxiety in one to one support, either from within the school or from the range of professional support available for children. Others may need the additional support of a calming, small group, away from the whole class, revisiting the work of ‘Learning for Living’. The program is easily adapted for all school situations.
Support for staff recovery
The well-being of all the staff in the school is paramount and must be addressed explicitly. It should not be left to individuals to find their own way through. The support that people have outside school will vary considerably and invariably school staff are support providers for others. As tiptop frontline professionals/key workers they put others and the job first. Re-establishing mutual support between all the staff will be crucial to their recovery and needs to be addressed explicitly. The Programme for a Staff Recovery Support Group is based on wide experience of working with groups and provides a focused approach to facilitating inclusive staff mutual support specifically in the recovery period.
Recovery for parents
We should not underestimate how challenging the period has been for parents, as many teachers who are parents know. The response to home schooling has been understandably mixed and children’s experiences will have been very different. These underlying differences potentially will create a gap between the children and this is likely to be manifested in some negative attitudes to work and poor behaviour. Some children will miss the intimacy of home schooling. Some parents have felt threatened by the expectations involved in home schooling and may have conveyed mixed messages about learning. Parents need to know that the school will recognise their child’s emotional and social needs on return.
Given that the circumstances of Covid-19 have led to increased involvement in their children’s education, we must avoid the message that education is now back in the hands of the professionals and their help is no longer needed. We must look for ways to continue their involvement in their children’s education and if necessary restore their morale.
It’s fortuitous that ‘Learning for Living’ uses a unique and innovative way of engaging parents throughout. After every lesson they are sent/emailed a letter briefly outlining what has been covered and suggesting some conversations and short activities for parents to explore the topic with their child. To download sample page click here. There are also some free topics using the same approach to send home for home schooling. www.learning4living.org.uk/parents/Introduction.pdf
Dr Mary Gurney
Educational Psychologist and author of ‘Learning for Living’.
“Full recovery will not be achieved in a week or even six weeks, it will be a long slow journey.”