Taking it gently is what will help children back to school
With pupils returning to school in greater numbers, it could be tempting to jump right back into the old routines to make up for lost time. But tests, tasks and times tables might not be the best way to settle children back and get them ready to learn.
A slow and steady pace is best, with gentler ways of assessment to understand the gaps in learning.
Wellbeing comes first
Children’s emotional health needs to be at the heart of a return to school strategy.
After all, if lockdown seemed long to us, imagine how long it must have felt for a child to be away from the classroom. Even the children of keyworkers who continued attending school have got used to a very different learning environment.
What children need now is the time and space to reconnect with friends and re-adjust to the school day, and some pupils will need some additional pastoral support. The Key for School Leaders has some great resources teachers can use to support pupils’ wellbeing.
Joining in with collaborative activities can ease pupils back to being part of a class again, with the flexibility to meet changing social distancing requirements and keep everyone safe. The focus for these activities should be fun, such as working together on an art project, or a maths quiz.
As time goes on, schools will start to assess pupils’ knowledge and identify gaps in learning, but the gentle approach should apply here too.
That’s where technology can help, not only by speeding up the process of testing pupils, but also making tests an enjoyable activity. In recent weeks, many pupils have spent at least some of their time on a laptop, tablet or smartphone at the kitchen table, and their digital skills will have come on in leaps and bounds, so a high-tech test will feel more like fun than a chore.
Similarly, digital tools can reduce the pressure of taking a test, and teachers get a better picture of a child’s learning so they can identify and plan interventions.
A search through the list of Bett solution providers will provide details of innovative resources which use technology to assess children’s reading, maths and handwriting.
Time will tell what impact the Covid-19 crisis will have on pupils in the longer term. But for now, the priority is to help children thrive once again in a safe, happy and healthy classroom, so they can get ready to learn.
David Whyley has worked in education for 40 years as a teacher, headteacher and local authority education advisor. David has also worked with the DfE and is now an education consultant with Lexplore Analytics which uses eye-tracking technology to identify children’s reading difficulties when they read aloud.