We must get kids back in school… for their overwhelmed parents' sake
HOWEVER much you love your child, I bet you are not loving being a teacher, and that makes it hard to love parenting, too.
For millions of parents across the country, trying to educate their children at home is like driving without a map.
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All you can do is try your best, feel your way and attempt to keep your cool.
Not easy when you are juggling work, are confined to the home and are staring into an abyss of uncertainty.
Our homes were never meant to be classrooms. And most parents were never meant to be teachers.
Ten months since the country first went into a national lockdown, many adults feel as trapped, sad, angry and frustrated as their children.
They are putting enormous pressure on themselves and many are buckling under a sense of inadequacy.
Children up and down the country are absorbing the energy of worried, over-whelmed parents at the end of their tether. It is causing many unhappy scenes.
Feel like your kids are acting up? That’s because young children still have limited language and are not yet equipped with the tools to express their needs and feelings. So they act out, communicate physically or raise their voices for attention, competing for airtime.
They have every good reason to protest.
In many homes, the main table is in the kitchen or an open-plan space, where everything is going on at once, a bit like Piccadilly Circus.
This guarantees distraction, lack of focus, disorganisation and confusion. Not exactly an environment where structured learning is possible.
The children who experienced Lockdown 1 are older now — a whole ten months older. They are in a different school year.
Children who were in nursery then are now of statutory school age. More is expected of them, but they have missed a great deal.
This is not an acceptable situation, and is why I believe we have a responsibility to our children, and to their parents, to welcome our pupils back to school at the earliest possible time. And by this I mean after the February half-term.
There is so much that happens in schools that simply cannot be replicated at home.
When young, our neural pathways develop most rapidly. This brain growth is necessary for memory and healthy cognitive development.
School offers the secure environment where children can lay the foundations they need for future learning.
And learning doesn’t happen by magic. If you do something multiple times, you gain both unconscious competency and mastery. This is what schools do, day in and day out — teachers work hard to assess prior learning and build on it, tailoring their teaching for different learners and constantly monitoring progress and attainment.
The class structure is clear. The teacher in school, although kind, caring and sensitive to the child’s needs, is not the parent.
They are not the one kissing the child goodnight at bedtime, and that makes a crucial difference.
The teacher-pupil relationship is key for a child to understand what is expected of them when they are learning.
Most importantly, children need each other. They need to play and run and kick a ball, learn to share and be con-siderate of others.
NO PEER GROUP
Schools have golden rules, instructions to follow and rewards to aim for.
These rewards are not ice-cream or cake and the instructions are very clearly non-negotiable.
Tasking parents with being teachers is unrealistic.
At home there are many conflicting demands.
There is a hierarchy in the household, no peer group for the kids and invariably there are inconsistent routines and rules. Add home-schooling into the mix and the attachment and love the parent has to offer can seem more conditional to a child, which is not a good place for a healthy relationship to develop.
Denied access to fun, friends and the wider world, I worry for our children’s future relationships, for their sense of resilience and self-worth, and for their physical and mental health.
And I worry for the future of their communication.
Children need language. This is what they learn in school, from their teachers, from each other, through play and through listening.
School life offers far more than English and Maths — there is much-needed structure and a sense of belonging to a wider community.
There is, of course, much to learn at home and I am not saying it is all bad by any means. But school is where robust preparation for the future unfolds.
Children today will need transferable skills for a fast-shifting world and they need to get out into the world as soon as possible.
That must start at promptly reopened schools.
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