Publication of the Government roadmap for our journey out of lockdown gave a welcome sense of hope last month.
The swift progress of the vaccination programme feels like we are really starting a national recovery, and the return for all pupils to schools and settings was a vital marker that we are finally prioritising children’s futures, and physical and mental health.
Yet with that came the focus on testing for Secondaries and the inevitable stories of those schools sending pupils home ‘the minute they had returned’.
However in general, there is a sense of progress and a light beginning to appear at the end of the tunnel!
So, 12 months on, it is a good time to reflect on what our schools have become and how teachers and leaders have stepped up to the mark to carry out roles never anticipated before.
Over the last year our schools became a vital lifeline, opening foodbanks and providing essential services and contact with parents and families.
They became mass testing stations, coordinating teams of volunteers and supporters.
Safeguarding moved to a whole new level with vulnerable children disappearing from the structure, safety, visibility and routine of normal life.
And teachers learnt overnight how to deliver high quality learning experiences from their front rooms, and at times, to balance the needs of half a group in school while the other half were at home.
Most of this would have been unimaginable before March 2020, but you did it, you made it work.
We hope that we never return to lockdown, but in reality we can never be sure.
So we continue to live with uncertainty and the consequential anxieties for children and adults that this brings. The mental health issues that have dominated are not going to suddenly vanish – pupils and staff will need support for the foreseeable future.
Just as children in the first lockdown wanted to know what this virus was and what it did, so questions will now move to the vaccine – how it works, does it all always work, will I be vaccinated?
More questions we don’t necessarily have the answers to.
For those in need of more specialist mental health support, there are a range of options and sources of help provided by the local authority.
As we look towards the future, a good place to start is the EEF Guide to Supporting School Planning which aims to support school leaders with their planning for the year 2021.
We believe that its tiered model that focuses on high quality teaching, targeted academic support and wider strategies provides the best route for enabling children to overcome the impact of school closures and the disruption to learning over the last 12 months.
- Teaching and Whole School Strategies
In their guide to supporting school planning, the EEF indicate that great teaching is the most important lever schools have to improve outcomes for their pupils.
The report identifies the importance of having deep subject knowledge and a flexible understanding of the content being taught, alongside the key components of explicit instruction, scaffolding, flexible grouping and cognitive and metacognitive strategies.
That means teacher CPD and training should be high on the radar going into 2021.
- Targeted Approaches
The EEF report that evidence consistently shows the positive impact that targeted academic support can have, including for those pupils who are not making good progress across the spectrum of achievement.
Planning targeted academic support, including how to link one-to-one or small group interventions into classroom teaching, will be a key component of effective planning for this academic year.
The EEF state that ‘Generally, the use of TAs to deliver high quality interventions, which complement the work of the teacher, is a ‘best bet’ and could be a powerful way of mitigating any impacts of time away from school and see positive gains for pupils.’
- Wider Strategies
The EEF state that wider strategies relate to the most significant non-academic barriers to success in school, including attendance, behaviour and social and emotional support.
These local needs and challenges will be different for every school community.
Family Support and Mentoring is certainly a part of this puzzle. Providing structured, targeted support from trained support workers can make a world of difference to those who need it.
The work of re-establishing routines and learning to learn will continue throughout the summer term, and the programmes of local authority summer schools will provide opportunities for engaging, enriching and varied activities which support their development of resilience, and wellbeing, and provide a safe space to reduce the effects of social isolation.
If you are thinking of running Summer Schools this year, Services For Education can support with music-themed activities to boost engagement and emotional wellbeing. Get in touch at email@example.com to find out more.
This year has been a herculean effort in every sense, and we all need some recovery time now.
We have all done whatever we can to get ourselves, our families, our friends, our colleagues and our pupils through this.
We may look back and ask what we have learnt about ourselves in this time, and we may realise we are more resilient, more resourceful and more creative than we ever realised.
It is something to be proud of.
I hope you have a lovely Easter break. Fingers crossed the lovely weather holds out!
This blog is part of our recovery curriculum series, you can read the first two blogs here:
If you would like any advice or support with any of the topics covered, please feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Covid-19 Support and Catch Up
Services For Education offers a wide range of teacher and pupil support to enable you to maximise the impact of catch-up funding and opportunities.
We have structured our offer to mirror the EEF Guide to Supporting School Planning which aims to support school leaders with their planning for the year 2021, including:
- Recovery Curriculum Consultancy
- Maths and Reading Interventions
- Music Tuition to Boost Emotional Health and Wellbeing
If you would like more information, you can find out more here.
About the Author
Andrew Cooper – Head of School Support, Services For Education
Andrew is the Head of the School Support Service. He has extensive experience in PSHE from his early career as a secondary school teacher, through working as Health Promotion Specialist in HIV and Substance Use, to his role as a local authority Health Education Service adviser, where he led on a number of areas including Relationships and Sex Education, and Safeguarding. He was the Healthy School Co-ordinator for Birmingham for 10 years, and also Regional PSHE Adviser for the West Midlands.
In a step outside of the world of children and young peoples’ physical and emotional health, he spent four years managing an initial teacher training provision. He became Head of the School Support Service for SFE in 2014 and now leads a team of advisers delivering support, consultancy and training to schools across the UK. During this time he has led on the development of the SFE digital offer, provision of pupil and family services, and the growth of the face to face training offer. He is currently a Trustee for the PSHE Association.