The Recovery Curriculum – The Whys and Hows for UK primary teachers.

The Recovery Curriculum | Why it's necessary | What are the best Known Approaches? | How to implement in schools

Table of Contents

The Recovery Curriculum - An Introduction

Every teacher knows that their students will not pick up where they left off prior to Covid.

It’s not just an extended “summer slide”, it’s also the profound sense of loss that some students may have experienced.

Too much has happened.

Look at what children are hearing on the radio, seeing on the TV and overhearing from adults. They will know people were worried, that people have been seriously ill and that people have died.

Nothing that has happened over the last six months has a precedent. Routines and plans have been abruptly disrupted.

The role of teachers and SLT in primary schools to pick up the pieces has never been so vital to society.

Loss of Social Interaction

For most children school isn’t just about learning, it is also about seeing their friends.

The cross-over is particularly clear when you look at the EYFS Statutory Framework and realise there are significant parts dedicated to personal, social and emotional development that require social interactions with their peers.

recovery curriculum EYFS

The loss of this interaction has significant effect.

Personally, my daughter is an only child and really missed playing with children of her own age during lockdown. 

Worryingly, the loss of friendship and social interaction could trigger a bereavement response in some of our children. They may have mourned for how their pre-COVID life. They have undergone a period where friends and family members have been avoided because proximity was a threat. How long will it take for children to recover and feel comfortable in proximity to others?

recovery curriculum friends

Routine Disappeared

One of the harmful effects of Covid-19 has been the dismantling of usual family routines, which disappeared almost overnight.

No school uniforms, no organised activities, no school run and no wrap around care.

We all struggle with a sudden loss of routine.

The President of the Australian Association of Psychologists, Anne Marie Collins, has been quoted as saying the “monumental disruptions to daily routine thrust on us by COVIS-19 pandemic cause us to feel overwhelming emotions as we suddenly lose agency over our live and our futures”

Children are, of course, no different.

recovery curriculum routine

The Losses and the Impact

The overall impact of children’s losses cannot be underestimated. It may cause a rapid worsening of our children’s mental health and well-being with Young Minds already reporting an increased number of incidents involving self-harm.

Ways of Supporting the Wellbeing of Children after Covid.

Hobfall et al

International research into what people need in the immediate to mid-term aftermath of a mass trauma (which COVID-19 could be construed as) (Hobfall et al, 2007) has identified five key elements:

  1. A sense of safety – a sense of safety can be achieved through quickly re-establishing predictable and familiar structures and routines so that the students know what to expect
  2. A sense of calming – ensuring regular and frequent opportunities for students to talk about, share and process their thoughts, feelings and experiences in safe and supportive environments with familiar and caring adults
  3. A sense of self and community efficacy – giving students, parents and staff a sense of participation and agency will be hugely important, in motivating them and giving them confidence to engage
  4. A sense of hope – helping students to reflect on the positive changes that have come about as a result of this crisis (perhaps for them as individuals, but also for their families, communities, the country and the world as a whole) can be a powerful antidote to the seemingly constant stream of bad news within the media
  5. A sense of connectedness – ‘tuning into’ the emotions of individuals and groups of students and responding with empathy and understanding will enhance feelings of connectedness. So too will facilitating opportunities for students to share, listen and support one another.

Carpenter & Carpenter

Barry Carpenter (Professor of Mental Health in Education, Oxford Brookes University )and Matthew Carpenter (Principal, Baxter College, Kidderminster) have written an excellent school & student-centric blog on the Recovery curriculum detailing 5 levers that can be used:

  1. Relationships – we can’t expect our students to return joyfully, and many of the relationships that were thriving,
    may need to be invested in and restored. We need to plan for this to happen, not assume that it will. Reach out to greet them, use the relationships we build to cushion the discomfort of returning
  2. Community– we must recognise that curriculum will have been based in the community for a long period of time. We need to listen
    to what has happened in this time, understand the needs of our community and engage them in the transitioning of learning back into school
  3. Transparent Curriculum
    all of our students will feel like they have lost time in learning and we must show them how we are addressing these gaps, consulting and co-constructing with our students to heal this sense of loss
  4. Metacognition;– in different environments, students will have been learning in different ways. It is vital that we make the skills for learning in a school environment explicit to our students to reskill and rebuild their confidence as learners
  5. Space – to be, to rediscover self, and to find their voice on learning in this issue. It is only natural that we all work at an incredible pace to make sure this group of learners are not disadvantaged against their peers, providing opportunity and exploration alongside the intensity of our expectations.

5 Ways to Wellbeing & Covid

We are big proponents of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing and have written quite a lot on this approach that can be found here:

  1. Connect – strengthening relationships with others and feeling close to and valued by others, including at work, is critical to boosting wellbeing. Connect with the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours
  2. Give – carrying out acts of kindness, whether small or large, can increase happiness, life satisfaction and general sense of wellbeing. Do something nice for a team mate. Thank someone. Volunteer your time.
  3. Take Notice –paying more attention to the present moment, to thoughts and feelings and to the world around, boosts our wellbeing. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment.
  4. Keep Learning – being curious and seeking out new experiences at in life more generally, positively stimulates the brain. Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Take on a new responsibility.
  5. Be Active – being physically active, including at work, improves physical health and can improve mood and wellbeing and decrease stress, depression and anxiety. Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Garden. Play a game.

Different Approaches to the Content of the Recovery Curriculum

Are these three approaches different and what can we learn from each?

I’ve aligned the different levers from the different approaches in the table here:

Hobfall et al

Carpenter & Carpenter

5 Ways to Wellbeing

A sense of Safety



A sense of calming

A sense of self & community



A sense of connectedness



A sense of hope


Be Active


Take Notice


Transparent Curriculum

Keep Learning



(Doing this table was quite a difficult and unsatisfactory task and none of the levers align exactly.)

It’s perhaps easier to see what each approach highlights more than the others:

  • Hobfall et al explicitly includes a “sense of hope”. Highlighting positives that have occurred.


  • Carpenter & Carpenter was created for schools by a Professor of mental health and a headteacher. As such, there is greater emphasis on a particular worry of students – how are we going to cover all the missing lessons – and skills for learning.


  • 5 Ways of Wellbeing includes physical health and more environmental/nature based approach.

Implementing a Recovery Curriculum in a School.

We are recommending schools schedule daily 15-30 minutes wellbeing sessions for all students.

Each week in these sessions, we would recommend picking just one of these levers and exploring the concept with students in safe space. 

Every teacher must choose their lever that they believe is best for the children in their class, informed by the broader school community.

Of course, if you would like media and lesson plans to support these sessions, why not try the Guide to Life?

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