Back to School After Lockdown – What You Need to Know to Prepare Your Child in four Easy Steps
From Parent to Scout Leader
There will be many parents out there, like scout leaders on a major expedition with clipboards, pens, backpacks full of plasters and provisions, all-knowing and absolutely ready for the new school journey ahead…
For the rest of us, still wading through the do’s and don’t’s of the autumn term, here are 4 steps to get you up to speed on going back to school this term. So, grab your clipboard and pens, you’re about to go from parent to scout leader in a matter of minutes!
Anxiety and our Amygdala
Anxiety begins in the Amygdala, the watchdog for danger, and is then exasperated by the Monkey Mind with the constant “What if”s. The Amygdala, however, can’t tell the difference between real danger and fear and will send the brain into a Fight & Flight Response at any given sign.
Children have for several months been surrounded by familiarity. Moving away from that for many, especially the younger children, will bring anxiety and fear of change. If you aren’t prepared, your child’s monkey mind will begin to screech “What if I don’t know where to go?” “What if I don’t know who’s in my bubble?” “What if I get it all wrong and get into trouble?”
Schools should have been in touch to explain the various new procedures such as the class ‘bubbles’ and hygiene routines. If you haven’t received this information or are unsure what the rules are, you should contact the school office in advance.
In the meantime, here are 4 steps to being prepared…
1. Getting to and from school:
- The government wants students to walk, cycle or be driven to school, rather than use public transport, if they can.
- Students on school buses would, ideally, be kept in separate groups and socially distanced. But in reality this is impossible to do, therefore, students will need to wear face masks (except those under 11) and have a handy sanitiser in their school bags.
- It’s important to know beforehand where and when parents can drop off and pick up and what areas of the school can be accessed, especially if you have siblings, as it is probable that parents will have to remain behind school gates.
- Running around, unsure of where you and your child should be and at what time, will create anxious pathways in your child’s brain. This causes stress hormones to flood the body, sending your child into school in full Fight or Flight alert, which is detrimental to their learning.
- The days of popping in and chatting to your child’s teacher, are for the moment obsolete. It is probable that you will need to make an appointment if you need to meet staff, or discuss via email. Keep in mind how busy teachers are and how much they have to currently focus on before pressing ‘send’.
2. Social Distancing:
- Moving between classrooms and along corridors in a packed school, makes the one-metre rule very hard to enforce. Instead, the focus is on ‘minimising contact’.
- The suggested way of doing this is by grouping primary pupils by class and secondary students by year. This means that they will be kept separate from other classes or year groups for lessons, break times and any other activities.
- Show your children what a one-metre length looks like and suggest that they should play games where there is less contact at play times.
It will be hard for the children to get used to being distanced from friends or siblings throughout the school day. Encourage them to recognise that this will not last for ever and that these are the safety measures to get our lives back into some normality for the moment.
- Students can expect to see a lot more cleaning going on during the school day, both in classrooms and communal areas.
- They will be expected to wash or sanitise their hands regularly and being careful when coughing and sneezing, to stop the spread of germs.
- If the “Happy birthday” handwashing every time you’ve been outside has slipped a little, reintroduce it so that it becomes a habit and emphasise the importance of not sharing food, drinks, pens etc for hygiene reasons.
- Currently, there are no plans to ask children or teaching staff to wear masks in school, so those who’ve had to wear them on the way to school will be reminded how to remove masks and wash their hands, on arrival.
- All tissues and disposable masks will have to be put in sealed bins, while washable masks should be carefully removed and kept in a bag to take home.
- Sharing of equipment, stationary etc will be discouraged wherever possible, so older children will need pencil cases, calculators etc.
4. Differences in School:
- There will be no big group events, such as assemblies, and teachers will need to stay at the front of the class to socially distance from the students.
- To keep students in their group ‘bubble’, it’s likely there will be a staggered start to the day and varying times for break and lunch. Lessons and breaks could be longer or shorter; the school day could start later or finish earlier.
- Desks will be spaced out as much as possible and will face forwards. Windows and doors may be left open to increase the ventilation.
- Certain sport and music activities such as contact sports, indoor PE activities, choirs and orchestras will be restricted. This means they may not happen at all, or there may be smaller groups or they may be held outside.
- Water fountains will be off limits. All pupils should have their own water bottle and check to see whether they need to bring a packed lunch.
- Arrangements for the use of lockers, toilets, cloakrooms and other communal spaces such as canteens are likely to be different from usual.
- Students might be asked, for example, to use these facilities at specific times only and within their group. Or they might be asked to come into school wearing PE kit on the appropriate days, to avoid using communal cloakrooms. (Schools have been advised to stick to their usual policy on school uniform.)
Inevitably, it’s going to be a difficult period of readjustment – not just to being back to a full school day, away from their family, but also to a rather different environment from the one they left in March.
Many, especially young ones, are likely to have forgotten the routines and expectations of behaviour and learning, quite different from home schooling.
There will also, undoubtedly, be gaps in children’s knowledge, whatever their age, and schools will be trying, particularly in the first term, to catch up and revise work missed or not fully understood.
By communicating the importance of these new changes and why they have been put in place with your child, will prepare them in advance, reducing the inevitable shock when they enter the school gates and the new term ahead for the first time.
With those steps in place you are hereby ready to join the Scout Leaders on the expedition ‘Operation Back to School’. Good Luck. Now go and get your clipboard….
See further blogs on ‘Back to School Rule of Three – Managing Emotions and Communication with your Child’
By Julia Johnston