There are huge pressures on families during coronavirus but students have also learned and developed many skills and aptitudes at home.
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 schools play in the community 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 in touch; and young people have skills from home and from local community activities that need to be acknowledged and recognised in schools when they open more widely
A sense of agency and belonging for students
Research shows if children and young people 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 – this can help support them to develop resilience. Make sure your school validates this use of time and this contribution of informal care which students might be making within their home, or in the community around them.
Activities that get pupils to reflect on what they have done during lockdown – 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.
Local and global movements for change
Activism and campaigning for social justice has not stopped during lockdown. Thousands of people from around the world, many of them from school communities, have protested against racism in society as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. We have also seen people campaign for a Green New Deal and an end to climate injustice. Globally, Covid-19 has exposed and exacerbated a plethora of gender, race and class inequalities that children and young people want to take action against.
It is important that learning during the coronavirus includes education on these movements, not only to ensure that learning reflects pupils’ experiences during lockdown, but to create hope in a time of crisis – celebrating inspirational activists and change makers to build a better world.
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 positive messages?
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. 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 healthy transitions back to school- 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 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.