“I’ve spent a lot of lockdown in my bedroom to be fair, playing Xbox. For me personally… I really enjoy school and I find that as my get away, so to hear they were shutting it down for almost 3 or 4 months, it really kind of put me back to where I was in primary school, in my bedroom, not speaking to anyone” A, 15
As September arrives, it signals a welcome (albeit very different) return to school for the whole school community. Months of lockdown followed by a summer break has meant many young people have experienced extended periods without their usual routine; missing access to support and time with their peers, whilst potentially dealing with the stress of exam results, bereavement and tensions at home. The return to school in September therefore represents a good time to reflect on whole school culture and to think about the environment we need to create in schools to support young people to thrive.
Firstly, it is important to recognise that every adult and child has had a different experience of lockdown, and therefore the impact on each individual will be different. Back at school, children are likely to demonstrate this through their behaviour, as each will have different defence mechanisms firmly in place. They will need more than ever for us as adults to be patient. Recovery is likely to be a long process, with the impact of lockdown playing out over time.
Secondly, this is an opportunity to use the school community to support and heal children and teachers. Reconnecting and the rebuilding of these relationships is essential for both young people and staff. It is important that children feel safe as they return to school– without this, learning cannot begin. Some top tips for teachers returning to school, based on our practices and what we’ve learnt at Jamie’s Farm:
1. Embedding time for daily ‘Check-ins’
Creating a safe space for every young person to discuss openly how they are feeling on a scale of 1 to 10 or through metaphor e.g. the weather, can foster a sense of connection and understanding and encourages active listening and empathy.
2. Post box
Have a place in the classroom for young people to share their thoughts and concerns and to begin rebuilding connections with trusted adults.
3. Repetition and routine
Children will need reminding of what a day at school looks and feels like. Re-introducing routine (and remaining patient!) is an important part of this.
4. Positive praise
Create lots of opportunities for children to be successful, to rebuild self-esteem and motivation.
Enable children to re-socialise by engaging in group work (safely) with their peers.
As ever, we at Jamie’s Farm are in complete awe of the school leaders, teachers and support staff who have worked tirelessly throughout lockdown to support the most vulnerable children. We know how hard they will all be working behind the scenes to make the return to school as smooth as possible for the young people who rely on them, and for that, we salute you!
Written and recorded by Tish Feilden (Lead Therapist and Co-founder) and Chloe Thomas (Impact Manager and ex-teacher) with the voices of Jamie’s Farm Ambassadors.