After a prolonged period of time with limited peer contact and social interaction, the return to school will present children with even greater challenges than September normally brings. Setting up the new protocols and risk assessments in order to keep children and staff safe in the current situation is only one of the challenges that will face teachers as the new term begins.
For many children, school is a tricky enough place to be and now they are having to start over, to some extent, when re-building their relationships with their peers. Certainly, many are feeling an overwhelming anxiety at the prospect of re-entering the ‘fray’. Small relaxed peer-groups, free to discuss their feelings and engage in role-play and bonding games, will go a very long way to help put normal life back together again. Social play and interaction which does not involve just being thrown out into the playground to get on with it, can help those children who struggle to jump in at the deep end without some support and hand-holding.
The problem is, that those after-school, extra-curricular clubs and classes which can help so much to get children together, working as a team and engaging in activities that help them to co-operate and actually ‘listen’ to each other, are the very activities that are currently on the ‘back-burner’ while schools struggle to get back up and running. Let’s face it, teachers have enough on their plates right now.
However, we shouldn’t let things drift. We already know the potential damage to the mental health of our children as a result of the pandemic. We need to put in place all the strategies we can, to get them through this and safely out the other side. This is not the time to turn our backs on all the good work that was being done before Covid. If we don’t tackle ALL the issues related to children’s return to school we (they) will pay for it in the long run.
I would like to think that all those running after-school clubs and activities – whether it be sport or drama related, can make this as easy as possible for the schools themselves. Drama in particular, is relatively easy to introduce whilst still maintaining social distance. Classes can be kept to year groups or whatever ‘bubbles’ the school is using and there are any number of ways that lessons can be planned to maintain reasonable distance between pupils.
Let’s talk. Let’s plan. Let us help.