1. Rebuild Relationships
Student wellbeing is founded on relationships. After every summer (and other long breaks from learning) and when pupils return to school, relationships need to be rebuilt. Pupils need to feel safe in school and the return to routines will help with this. As always, creating a supportive learning environment will be vital.
2. Reflect & Rediscover
All pupils need the opportunity to tell their lockdown stories – whether written, orally, through play acting or other means. This will allow students to come to terms with their experiences and in this limited sense they will be able to rediscover themselves.
3. Positive Language
We need to be careful of negative language. Terms such as “catch up” and “recovery” suggest a problem. Despite what has happened, we need to constantly reinforce how positive we are about the future.
4. Baseline Assessments
Schools will want some form of baseline assessment early in the year. This could be by formal or informal methods. More able pupils may not achieve their normal high scores, less able pupils may perform worse than normal, damaging student wellebing. It is crucial that teachers know the needs of their pupils and are ready to reassure them.
5. Don't Forget the More Able
The inevitable priority will be given to pupils who have fallen even further below expectations.
This will lead to teachers diverting time, energy and focus to these pupils at the expense of giving attention to more able pupils. More able pupils need to be engaged in purposeful learning and challenged as always.
6. Don't Narrow the Curriculum
Mary Myatt has previously talked of the “disciplined pursuit of doing less” and the pandemic is leading to consideration of the essential curriculum content that needs to be learned now. It may force schools to be even clearer on core learning. The spectre of “measurement-driven instruction” is always with us, particularly for Year 6.
Providing pupils with the chance to work successfully on their favourite subjects as soon as possible can build confidence and help with student wellbeing. It is important to gauge students’ feelings on subjects across the curriculum, perhaps through them RAG rating their confidence; this could then lead to dialogues between teacher and pupils about how to rebuild confidence. Learning is never linear; this needs to be acknowledged and pupils reassured.
8. Review Writing Plans
Primary school teachers are always mindful of the challenges of the criteria for greater depth, particularly in relation to the writing.
It is important to review the normal writing plan for the year to see that the key tasks are still appropriate and timed correctly. Teachers in all year groups must not panic about the demanding standards needed, but instead remember they have the year to help their pupils achieve those standards, even if current attainment has dipped.
9. Remain Optimistic
We must not shy away from the opportunities to go beyond the curriculum to encourage and develop talents.
Given that the “recovery curriculum” may spend a lot of time re-establishing a mental health equilibrium and helping those with gaps in knowledge to “catch up”, it may be that those pupils who are ready for it can be given license by teachers to experiment more with the curriculum, have more independence and get to apply their learning more widely.
Not merely recovering, but rebounding and reigniting with energy, vigour and a celebration of talents.