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Back to School, the New Normal 2021

The New Normal 2021

Back to School

Of all the difficulties we have faced over the period of the pandemic, some of the worst have been those which have affected families with school-age children. There have been so many challenges in the education system throughout the past 18 months that the prospect of a normal Autumn term probably still seems like an impossible dream.

Social distancing, class bubbles and frequent self-isolation have meant that many children have had to spend more time at home than in school.

It is really important now – not least for the sake of parents’ sanity – that as far as possible, children return to a normal routine in September.

Listening to older pupils talking about their GCSE and A Level results recently, shows that they have suffered in a number of ways due to the compromises they have had to make since the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020. Exam candidates last year were really guinea pigs, and the algorithm that was used to decide their grades was judged to have been something of a disaster!

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson had an unenviable job, and took quite a battering in the press and from teaching organisations. Surprisingly he is still in post but, this year, teacher-assessment has taken the place of the infamous algorithm.

This seems to have proved less controversial, but there is still a lot of heated discussion taking place about the high levels of grades awarded, with unprecedented amounts of A* results. Hopefully 2022 will see a return to more conventional marking, though some students may have welcomed the assessment-based system, and it does seem a good fit for some subjects.

Apart from the exam issue, one of the main advantages of children actually being back in school will be the social and supportive interaction they get, both in terms of pupil to pupil and pupil to teacher.

Just like the new ‘working from home’ culture experienced by office staff, remote learning means children and young adults miss out on such a lot of opportunities and experiences when they are not mixing with their classmates.

Younger pupils particularly need the physical interaction of school, because they are still learning to socialise, share and communicate with both adults and other children, who may not always have the same interests as themselves and their immediate families.

Even though your teenagers probably initially enjoyed the novelty of not having to get out of bed so early in the morning - especially in January and February - they would have quickly realised that it’s not so much fun working on their own all day in front of a computer. Text messaging and WhatsApp communication cannot really substitute for chatting in between classes and kicking a ball around at break-time.

What must also be taken into account is the fact that some families do not have the ability to provide the space or resources that their children need for successful home-based learning, so it is vital that the majority of pupils spend five days a week in the classroom during term-time.

The lockdowns have made many parents admire the work that teachers do more than ever, and would consider permanent home-schooling a real struggle, although some families do decide to take that route – and not just during the pandemic.

However, for most of us, school will be the place our children will be heading back to this September. There are still a couple of weeks of summer fun left, but don’t leave it too late to get organised for the beginning of the new school year.

Start to get uniforms ready now because its highly likely that your youngsters will have grown quite considerably since they last wore their school clothes.

Labelling is essential for all those shirts, trousers, skirts and blazers, and don’t forget to order some stick-on labels for shoes, bags, sports kit, pencil cases and lunchboxes.

Buying new equipment for school is an expensive business and you don’t want things going missing during the first week back.

We all deserve our back to school experience this September to be stress-free - in every way!