20 things teachers want you to know about going back to school after lockdown
After a second long stint of homeschooling, most children (and their parents) are delighted to be back at school. But at the same time, it’s normal to have some concerns as your child settles back in.
So what can you be doing to make the new start as smooth as possible for your child, their teacher and yourself? We asked seven primary school teachers what they want you to know in the weeks ahead.
1. Your child’s teacher knows them already
The difference between this lockdown and the first, when children didn’t return to school until after the summer holiday, is that this time, your child is going back to the same teacher, rather than starting a new school year with someone else.
The teacher had a term with your child before lockdown, and will already know where they’re likely to need help.
Catherine Mulvany, deputy headteacher
2. We’re all following the Covid rules
Keeping children safe is a top priority at the moment. At our school and many others, children have different play and lunchtimes so bubbles don’t cross over, and we’re well versed in the art of handwashing.
The children all have their own plastic wallets for their individual equipment to avoid unnecessary touching, and tables are decontaminated at lunchtime ready for the afternoon session. Staff are following these rules, too.
Lewis Offer, Year 3 teacher
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3. Good home routines help
My advice is to get back into good routines at home as soon as possible. It’s natural to have let things slide over the homeschooling period, so use the return to school as a reset point: for example, ‘We will now start reading every night and learning your spellings again.’
Your child will probably be exhausted, so be understanding and make sure they get to bed at a reasonable time.
Catherine Bullock, KS1 teacher
4. Wellbeing is a top priority
Some children will be anxious about being back at school. The most important thing is to talk about it, and make sure they know that it’s normal to be worried. We’ll give them chances at school to talk about what they’re excited about, and what’s worrying them. This will help us to be aware of our pupils’ needs so we can address them.
Catherine Stacey, Year 2 teacher
5. We want pupils to reconnect
We won’t be plunging straight into academic work, but prioritising getting children back into a love of learning. We’ll be providing lots of opportunities for them to reconnect with their friends and teachers.
Through this, teachers will be continually listening to children and looking for where they are in their learning, and we’ll provide support where it’s needed, as we always do.
Ben Levinson, headteacher
6. We appreciate your homeschooling efforts
Teachers understand the enormous pressure parents have been under while homeschooling, so please don’t worry about which phonemes your child can recognise or whether they’ve mastered addition.
We will work together to make sure we close any gaps over time, but this is not a judgement of your teaching skills, or your child’s drive over the past months: they all develop at different rates, even when we’re not in a global pandemic.
Sophie Pickles, Early Years specialist
7. We can still do PE and music
We’re working hard to minimise the risks of Covid transmission. We’ll be having lots of outside time, with walks and other outdoor learning. PE will be outside, as it has been since September, and so will music – this means we can actually sing!
Gary Crocker, deputy headteacher
8. If you can do one thing, read
A big focus is on reading, because without that, it’s hard for children to access the whole curriculum, especially in Key Stage 2. So if you can do one thing, get your child reading every day, and get them talking about their books. If they can tell you the story or predict what might happen next, you know they’re understanding what they’re reading.
9. We’re helping children fill the gaps
If we think a child is in need of extra support, first of all we’ll identify the exact need, and see if any other children have the same need. Then we can make bespoke intervention groups for that skill to address the issue as soon as possible.
I like to talk to adults and offer tips on what they can do to help. Parents tend to appreciate the advice, and we can then work collaboratively.
10. Some of us wear masks – and some don’t
Teachers will be wearing masks in communal areas, but it’s our choice whether to wear them in the classroom. Personally, I find it hard to talk to pupils with a mask on, so if your child’s teacher isn’t wearing one, that may be why.
11. Home learning for self-isolating pupils might look rather different
We know that at times, children need to self-isolate, but because teachers are now back in school and teaching as usual, the home learning provided is unlikely to replicate what they were given in lockdown. We’ll link with what’s being covered in school, but it’s more likely that we’ll be using online resources like Oak National Academy.
12. Don’t stress about homework
Embrace having a normal home life again. Some homework will be necessary for some year groups, but most teachers will make sure pupils have a light load for the rest of the school year.
Children and parents have been on the verge of burning out for a while now, and the combination of a normal school day plus work at home may push them over the edge.
13. Children are getting hungry!
Make sure your child has a snack for break time: after being able to snack all day at home, our Year 5s and 6s are starving!
14. Don’t be afraid to contact the teacher
If you need to speak to your child’s teacher, the best way is to email the school office and they can forward the message. Sending comments through a platform like Google Classroom is also a quick way to get hold of a teacher.
Personally, I love a chat, so I’m more than happy to talk on the phone and put parents at ease – this time has been hard for you, too.
15. Expect some changes
Some things will look a bit different so we can be Covid-secure. For example, we can’t easily play instruments as we have to wash them all after use, which is very time-consuming. The same applies to computing, with having to wipe down 30 laptops before and after!
16. Keep reminding your child of Covid precautions
Parents have been doing so much at home, and doing it well, so now, we just ask you to reinforce Covid safety advice, and let us know straight away if your child needs any other help – we’ll do the rest.
17. Tell us if there are problems at home
It’s important to keep the lines of communication open between school and home. If there were any wellbeing issues for your child in lockdown, tell us, because if we don’t know, it’s harder for us to help.
18. A little praise goes a long way
It’s always nice to have encouragement from parents. People are very quick to pick up on the slightest wrongdoing, but rarely pick up on the positives. I’ve had some lovely emails sent into school about my hard work and commitment to the class: the occasional thank-you message really lifts teachers’ spirits.
19. Don’t stress about longer days or shorter holidays
Ignore what’s being said in the media about longer school days and summer schools. These things will need legislation and planning, and won’t happen immediately, so focus on the positives and trust us teachers: we know what’s best for your child.