Last week so some of the nation’s children returning to school. But if like me you are one of the many parents whose kids are still home, you will no doubt have a number of question marks bubbling up in your head about homeschooling, going back to school after lockdown and the messy middle in-between.
With that said, today I’m delighted to welcome back Murray Morrison – leading education expert and founder of intelligent online learning programme Tassomai – to answer the questions you told me you had.
My daughter is in year two and so is still “homeschooling”. How much does this really matter in the early years if they miss six months plus of learning in a school setting?
Early years are a crucial time. This is the time when children develop core skills for longer-term learning such as reading, vocabulary, motor skills that lead to handwriting and coordination, numeracy and spatial awareness. Be sure to keep in touch with your child’s teacher and make sure that these skills are being practised and developed. The other important aspect is the social side, so you’ll need to do what you can to keep your child in touch with friends over Zoom.
When kids go back will they have to go over the year 2 curriculum at the beginning of year 3? Or is it likely they will skip that and go straight in and assess kids from there?
It will depend on the school but the general likelihood is that learning that was missed this year, or that was covered remotely, will have to be covered again once they go back to school after lockdown. It’s unlikely that students will miss any chunk of the curriculum because of the lockdown. That said, the missed material and everything planned for the coming year will all be compressed into a shorter time, so it won’t be easy. Ensuring your child is able to focus, listen and learn will be crucial as there will be fewer opportunities to really consolidate knowledge in class.
How do you think the current year 6, moving into year 7 will be supported? They’re missing huge milestones, including being able to walk to and from school on their own, and will likely move from a small school to a huge building with multiple classes per year, that alone will be a huge shock to the system.
It’s a difficult transition in normal times; even tougher this year when they go back to school after lockdown . This is a big factor in the government’s decision to prioritise the early return of Y6 students, of course. I know from conversations with secondary heads also that a great deal of thought is going into making the reception of new Year 7s next year as friendly as possible.
Bearing in mind our youngest children are going back first, how can the early years foundation stage curriculum (which has a focus on ‘learning through play’ within a free-flow environment) can be expected to work under the current guidelines… would they be better off learning at home?
The same questions are being asked by school leaders themselves, but the consensus is generally that the educational benefit makes the case for returning, even though the environment may have to be very different.
Many of the materials usually available for early-years pupils may be locked away, and the classrooms may look and feel very much more ‘Edwardian’, but teachers are resourceful and adaptable. I suspect that where possible, there will be more use of outdoor spaces when possible, more story-reading and other, similar activities that don’t rely on sharing glue-sticks and crayons.
I haven’t homeschooled for the last few weeks – my daughter has totally lost interest after the initial novelty has worn off. Does all this matter?
It’s a challenge, of course, and once it’s worn thin, there is risk of pushing too hard and it backfiring, so I respect the instinct to take a break. All I would say, though, is that children will go back to school in some form after lockdown. When that happens, it may be quite different from what went before.
So, for your daughter to flourish there and keep learning effectively in tough circumstances, she would do well to focus on essential skills: activities that help her to practise concentration and focus, and as much reading as possible (whether for pleasure or from relevant workbooks). Likewise, I’d try to dial down TV/phone time during the ‘school day’ and work towards a normal school timetable of getting up and bedtime, so that the return to school itself doesn’t come as too much of a shock.
We are getting school sent home from work but my son finds it so boring. I feel obliged to follow what they are sending home but I feel like what they are setting doesn’t work in a “homeschool”. What should we do?
Follow your instincts – emphasise the quality of the work time where you can – if creative projects keep your son motivated and enjoying learning, that’s worth far more than wading through the assignments. That said, you absolutely should be looking at the work sent and doing what you can to keep him abreast of the curriculum and the targets so that he is ready to go back to school after lockdown. But there’s very little point in filling out worksheets on material he already knows and understands, so you can absolutely take a view on that.
For parents of children that start school in September…how are we best to prepare them for school as they won’t have taster sessions before they start or see their teacher before they are due to start?
Contact your new school and see if you can make appointments to “meet” the teachers over Zoom; likewise, there will be documents they can send you that explain the curriculum for the first term and the general educational aims for the year. If you can’t get them from the school, you’ll find generic examples online which would stand as a good proxy. Having a look at these sorts of documents will help you start preparing for the year ahead.
Far more than the specific ‘learning outcomes’ though, the most important thing is that, when your child is ready to start school (or, when the school is ready to receive them), they are excited and enthusiastic, and they understand what is expected of them: to have fun, to listen to their teachers, to meet new people, and to learn more about themselves. If they’re excited about the new year, everything else will fall into place.
We hope you found the above answers to the questions you may have about going back to school after lockdown and how to get a steer of things in the run-up to that point helpful. If you have any other questions you’d like to pose above please do include them in the comments section and we will try out best to respond to them.