During this period, NEU members have been really creative about how to build schools and colleges as communities. Schools are in so many ways at the heart of their community and provide support with health, food and family services. There has been a huge upsurge in the understanding of the important role which communities play and how children and young people are part of their local community. Many young people have clapped for carers or been busy writing to elderly relatives to keep them in touch; and young people have skills from home and from local community activities that need to be acknowledged and recognised in schools.
A sense of agency and belonging for students
Research shows that it will really help students to develop resilience if they feel that they are making a positive difference, are trusted and viewed as responsible - whether that is helping in their home, helping with younger siblings, or helping people in their street/estate/area. Make sure your school validates this use of time and this contribution or informal care which students might be making within their home, or in the community around them. Activities such as putting up posters in the window, or making care packages for neighbours, have benefits for both learning and wellbeing and should be celebrated and validated.
The NEU has developed a parent microsite to support families through this unusual term. The NEU has also produced a model poster for your school to use with families to publicise helplines and national sources of information about mental health, domestic violence and other challenges.
Supporting the community
The NEU is recommending that schools put together free Create Boxes to send home for children who might not have creative supplies available. What could students create for their neighbourhood? What art activities could your school community do together, to still feel connected? Could students drop posters in to display on the school gates? Could students decorate stones or tiles with what they are missing?
Community of professionals
As a professional learning community, staff need the opportunity to talk about what training and professional development would help them to respond to the new challenges. Trauma informed approaches? Online skills? Reading for pleasure? Although there are multiple short-term challenges, this is not the time to give up on CPD. Your NEU union group should identify what CPD is the priority to support you to adjust the curriculum, refresh assessment skills and respond to the social and emotional needs of your students. Your school will need to build its capacity to respond to children’s emotional and learning needs, and to manage the transition phase when it comes - this needs to be a collective discussion.
Support for all school staff
NQTs, trainees, cleaners, school nurses, food preparation workers and supply teachers are all key workers. All school staff need support. As a school team you will know the particular needs of your colleagues, and your union rep will be able to support members where necessary. The NEU expects exceptional treatment to be given this year for those on initial teacher training, with those on course to gain QTS receiving it. The NEU has also called on schools to continue paying supply educators until the end of their engagement and to maintain contracts, including those agreed but not yet started. The NEU encourages schools to support all their workers, regardless of their role or activity level, at this time.
How to create a sense of place and belonging in your setting
Read this research summary, from the NEU series called Research to Reflect On. This summary gives you an easy to read summary of research about creating a sense of place and belonging, and giving students a sense of agency.