I think pretty much everyone in the UK will say that lockdown 3 has been the hardest one so far. January, grey skies, rain, rain and so much rain. Christmas without seeing friends and family, schools closed again, pretty much everywhere closed.
We’re all getting through in the best way that we can. Children included. Children who miss their friends, who are lonely and sad. I find it really frustrating that in the midst of all of this the government are focusing on how children are going to ‘catch up’. An obsession over missed grades, missed information and not enough discussion on what they really need for their well being.
There has been talk about shortening the school holidays and lengthening the school day. Like children are learning robots and the best thing they need right now is to be sat down in classrooms for even longer and have information stuffed into them. Let alone the impact this will have on teachers, who may very well have had the most stressful year in their teaching careers. We also shouldn’t look over the fact that most children have been sat at their desks and computers learning everyday at home, they haven’t been ‘off school’, they have been learning the best they can.
This is not what they need. These children have been through so much. Some will have been sick and lost family members, others are just lonely. Some like my youngest who is 2.5 years have spent half their life in lockdown are missing key socialisation skills and experiences.
What children need right now is time to run, time to play. To go back to swimming lessons, dance classes, gymnastics or whatever their passion is. To get together with their friends, cousins, families and give their grandparents the biggest hug ever. They need time to be children again, where they can be free from restrictions, face masks and hand sanitiser being sprayed at them every five minutes.
When we think about what happens to children after the pandemic, we need to focus on their wellbeing and mental health, not over thinking about them falling behind. Yes, I too have found myself worrying about this. But we need to remember that children across the country will be in the same position. That in some countries children don’t start school until they’re 2/3 years older than here in the UK. They will be ok.
We also need to address another thing that has become apparent with homeschooling and that’s the crazy curriculum we have right now. A curriculum that seems to have been resurrected from the Victorian era. Where 6-year-olds learn about fronted adverbials, expanded noun phrases and split diagraphs. All terms I have had to google. I have a degree in English, make my living writing and I am currently writing a novel, never once have a looked at a piece I have written and thought, well that needs an expanded noun phrase. It’s just bonkers. Why on earth do our children need to learn this nonsense?
My son, at 9, is learning maths I remember tackling in secondary school. Why does he need to learn it now? Why do we need SATs and tests and exams? Are they a true representation of how our children are performing? Why do primary school children even need tests? They don’t. Let’s take this time and completely shake-up the curriculum and really think about the skills our children need to have a happy and successful life. More forest school and less desk learning. Let’s look at the Scandinavian model and focus on learning through play entirely for key stage one. Let’s look at fundamental skills around money and looking after our mental health. Writing and reading for the sheer joy of it. Identifying a child’s talents and allowing it to flourish.
Desk learning isn’t best learning. The government needs to talk to parents and teachers. We don’t want catch up schools, we want happy, thriving children. Children who love to learn and don’t learn by rote. We want to avoid a mental health crisis that is growing in our children and for them to take all life has to offer and embrace it.