Back to school after the coronavirus lockdown – Tips for schools and educators

Practitioner Insights: Back to school after the coronavirus lockdown – Tips for schools and educators

As schools reopen their doors in the coming weeks, the transition will of course be challenging for everyone involved. Drawing on the experience of our Education lead practitioner Gail McNelly, this post focuses on how we can begin to identify and respond to these heightened challenges, namely safeguarding, child protection and wellbeing concerns in order to support everyone at school.  

  1. Recognise the challenges facing pupils and their families

While generally experiences have been varied during the lockdown period, we’ve seen how families living in precarious situations, facing financial hardship, and going through other challenges including mental health and wellbeing have borne the brunt of the lockdown. Some of these families have felt particularly isolated and fearful, while others have experienced loss and bereavement. Together with reviewing policies and procedures as things continue to change, it is vital that school staff are aware of the different challenges that families have faced in order to identify how best to safeguard and protect wellbeing at school. You could begin by engaging and regularly checking in with pupils and their families to find out about their concerns.

  1. Introduce creative check-ins and wellbeing activities

In our recent Motivate to Educate (M2E) survey, 75% of parents indicated that Covid-19 has impacted on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of the familyincluding 50% indicating an impact on family communication. Thus, in addition to these wellbeing activity ideas for schools by Place2Be and Young Minds, Gail suggests that checking in with pupils through an “emotions meter” and “emoji game” could be very helpful for pupils and school staff alike – this is something that Kineara will be developing further. Talking to children about any concerns they may have, what they liked about lockdown, what they didn’t like about lockdown is important – and integrating this into a group activity could be even more effective. “Teachers could check-in with pupils by integrating it with the register,” suggests Gail.

  1. Connect with pupils in a way that resonates with them

Some pupils may be reluctant to share things or even follow guidelines during this time which can impact further on their safety and learning and those around them. If you are supporting a pupil 1:1, show that you are here for them. As you get to know your pupil, try to engage in a way that resonates with them. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room – ask them how they are feeling about the pandemic and acknowledge this without minimising or dismissing their concerns. Try to have open conversations by doing different activities like reading or drawing together – this will help to break the ice and allow them to express themselves better.

  1. Adapting to digital teaching and learning

“Although different organisations including Kineara were running online check-ins and other virtual services, it hasn’t been easy. We were giving them tips and sending ideas for different family activities which some of them were doing. However, a lot of  parents were even scared to go out for a walk because of the virus so I did do some work around that,” explains Gail. One parent and survey respondent who took part in our M2E programme highlighted social distancing as a barrier, “We can’t do many activities outside like swimming, going to church, clubs and cinema due to social distancing.” This means that it may take some time for pupils to be back in school every day, particularly pupils with SEND, which could result in a combination of in-school and virtual teaching – the NSPCC has put together this helpful guide relating to this including how to undertake remote teaching safely.  In the coming months, this reality could also mean a wider review on adapting teaching and other services in the mid to long-term.

Are you a school or service that has adapted the way you deliver? Do you have any suggestions, feedback or advice you would like to share? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today.

Helpful links and resources

NSPCC has put together this transitioning back to school resources pack

Young Minds has a range of resources for schools, teachers and support practitioners including tips to support pupils during Covid-19 and the transition back to school

EEF has launched a range of resources to support schools to address the impact of Covid-19 school closures on pupils’ learning and support home learning.

Support, guidance and activity suggestions for schools by Mentally Healthy Schools

5 ways to help keep children learning during the COVID-19 pandemic by Unicef