Scott Biggs, Education Specialist, highlights challenges and possible steps forward for the Sector.

One of the biggest challenges facing the primary school sector is catching up the gaps in pupils education missed during the Covid pandemic in the UK, with school closures rocking the sector again.

Scott Biggs, an education specialist with over a decade of experience on the front-line of teaching, highlights where teachers need help and how Headteachers can calmly administer the changes needed to address the challenges that will be faced in the sector going forward.

“Education has always been a given in our lifetime in the UK. There has rarely been a time when schools were closed and children could not access education. However, with the recent impact of the covid pandemic, the education profession has had to be resilient.

“Teachers have faced over 30 different guidance documents and announcements since February, with over 100 coronavirus updates for the sector, meaning teams have had to be agile to tick the right boxes. Many of these updates happened days before the new term, which caused a frantic reactive challenge for a sector that is well known for proactive planning. During the Christmas break, teachers were preparing and planning for mass testing and come the new year, after one day in school, guidance changed again and teams needed to react quickly to enact home learning.

“It is great testament to the entire sector that safe guidance was developed and put into practice so quickly to keep pupils and staff as Covid free as possible. The resounding agreement is that staff just want to do their jobs! Many are now trying to strike the right balance between giving children enough learning to minimize the gap with also understanding that parents are often juggling both siblings and their own working commitments so strong communication lines and feedback between parents and staff is as important as ever.

“Each school is unique but the effects of the global pandemic on the education community are clear. Primary School Headteachers must continue to drive standards and support staff acknowledging their hard work and efforts in the face of continuing adversity.

It is really important to acknowledge and display understanding that the pandemic affects everyone. It is not just about the loss of the learning but also the resulting stress and anxiety that could prove to be a long-term issue. I have heard stories of children having nightmares around returning to school because their patterns have changed so much, so we must ensure children and staff are supported back gradually into a normal routine.

“Primary Schools must provide time for the staff and children to talk about the changes and what is going on in the world, in their town, in the school and at home. Every child and staff member should be provided with a route to help and guidance. Staff should have a source they trust that they can speak to in confidence. Children should be able to speak one on one with teachers and those teachers should be able to access professional help for the child if they feel it is needed. Drop in sessions are helpful for keeping communication lines open between staff and parents.

“Each school should have in place, or have on site, access to a qualified counsellor. The school should have designated personnel who have been previously trained or are undergoing specific training. Bespoke support plans are incredibly important right now, even more so than catching up on the curriculum. This ideally should be expanded to the parents, to create a holistic approach to supporting families.

“Teaching should not shy away from the harsh truths that we currently live in. Sharing experiences and stories should be encouraged and our experiences at all ages should be learnt from.

“Teachers need to facilitate the forming of friendships in different ways. By creating structure and routine, children can know their safe circles and bubbles. This provides stability to all and means that the environment within can be more relaxed, reflecting a strong degree of normality for them.

“Affirming videos, advice, tips and model changes should be shared so that children take in the guidance through more than one medium. Social media is great for keeping connections and relationships going.

“Calm explanations to children will help schools to support a gradual move back to normality. When we resume and if mass testing continues, then dedicated nurses or trained professionals in each school will help to provide a reassurance and lessen any fears about the testing process.”

Scott is happy to talk with schools on an individual basis on any issues or queries on keeping COVID safe structures rolling successfully. You can contact him on scott@intrinsicintegrity.co.uk or you can visit intrinsicintegrity.co.uk.