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Children Wearing Backpacks, Going To School.

The challenges children will face when returning to school in September

Jude Avatar Kids MatterJude, Kids Matter Supervisor and Facilitator, reminds us that there won’t just be Maths and English to catch up on when schools reopen in September; children will need to re-engage with how to socially interact with their peers.

As August approaches, many parents across the country have breathed a sigh of relief that school holidays have arrived, and home-schooling has turned into just being home. For many families though, the school holidays will look no different to the last 19 weeks of just being at home.

With two primary-aged children of my own, I started enthusiastically in March when schools closed – physical activity at 9am (thank you Joe Wicks), lessons at the table following a timetable with break time and lunch breaks until 3.15pm. This rigidity lasted two days; none of us could keep up with Joe’s enthusiasm let alone get heads around imperfect fractions last attempted in 1995 and the ability to concentrate without 29 other children alongside was hard. The ‘school day’ soon started ending earlier and earlier until all pretence of afternoon schoolwork was abandoned. By the time June and July came round we were simply satisfied if the tasks set by the school had been attempted. On one sunny day the schoolwork was ‘completed’ by a record 9.45am!

By the time the school term starts again for us on 7 September my children will have missed out on 71 days of school which equates to over 14 weeks. But the actual time away from school will be 24 weeks, almost half the year.

It is widely accepted that the annual school summer holidays usually contribute to a learning loss, but the gap in formal education provision we’ve seen this year has not been experienced in the UK since the Second World War. Sadly, the reality is that children from disadvantaged families are more likely to suffer from this extensive time away from education than those who are more affluent.

I drove past a private school a few days ago which proudly declared on a large banner that over 2000 lessons had been delivered online during lockdown which contrasts starkly with some state schools which have delivered no online lessons at all. Lack of resources has played out in families in the most practical terms; how do four children each access different online tasks with one internet enabled device between them?

And what about those families who can’t afford the data charges; It no longer seems so shocking to suggest that broadband should be provided to all free of charge.

But setting lessons aside, the Children’s Commissioner has highlighted the fact that children have also missed out on so much more in these last long months since lockdown began. Schools provide a place for all children to learn and practice social skills, cognitive thinking, problem solving, emotional regulation, consistency, boundaries and concentration.

The lack of summer schemes for children is also noticeable this year when arguably they are needed more than ever. In my city, I have seen just one activity camp offered where usually there are many to choose from.

So, when school doors reopen in September there won’t just be Maths and English to catch up on, children will need to re-engage with how to socially interact with their peers. The combined impact of Covid 19 will continue to unfold over time as the hidden effect on the emotional health and wellbeing of a generation of children becomes apparent.

If you’d like to find out more about Kids Matter or would like to get involved, as a volunteer or by financially supporting our programme, please contact us at info@kidsmatter.org.uk. And for more on our IMPACT, click here.

Photo by note thanun on Unsplash

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