When Boris Johnson announced the lockdown at 8pm on Monday 23rd March, I wept. I was relieved to know that I wouldn’t go home after a busy day of teaching 150 different children feeling terrified at the possibility of bringing death into my home. But after suffering from postnatal depression last year following the birth of my first child, I was shaken with the dawning familiarity of feeling trapped and isolated. The prospect of being confined within my home with my needs coming far below those of my child, husband and students, left me panicked.
I think it is safe to say that the Covid-19 situation caught us all a little unawares. We have seen epidemics like SARS and EBOLA before, but these have always been stopped before being able to spread. This time was different. The grim inevitability of school closures was upon us and this meant we had to make plans and fast.
We are in completely uncharted waters. Thousands of children at home with parents, unable to go to school. Schools are attempting to provide resources for parents to use at home, to varying degrees of success. But what is the intention? To replicate school? To ensure children don’t miss out on learning?
“When am I ever going to use Pythagoras?”; “Why do I need to know what a noun is?”; “What’s the point in learning this?”... Sound familiar? You must be a teacher. If you’ve been teaching for some time, you probably know that questioning the purpose of education is nothing new. Do you ever wonder what your parents were like at school? Did they ask the same questions when it was their turn?
In May of this year, Guilden Sutton Primary School in Cheshire found a new way to remove headaches from residential trips, school meal payments, sporting events, and even the school disco! One of the school administrators had used management app eeZeeTrip as a parent at a neighbouring school, and was keen to see the benefits for Guilden Sutton.
Staff and pupils from Ysgol Cae Top, Bangor, have teamed up with local IT company Semantise Ltd to help parents keep up to date with the school's activities. Innovative iPhone and Android app eeZeeTrip enables parents to quickly see details of the school events and trips children are going on. eeZeeTrip was the brainchild of Llew Davis, headteacher at Cae Top, who wanted to solve the problem of the large number of letters going to and from home.
One of the most important parts of my job has to do with finding new ways to connect our parent community to the school. In some areas where I have worked this has not been a big problem. I have experienced schools with strong parent councils, and parents groups who have the time to put a great deal of time and resources into the school.
As part of my job I attend a lot of education shows and meet a lot of teachers and heads in the UK. When I talk to them about improving their parental engagement I get a variety of responses. Some (hopefully half-jokingly!) say “Do we have to?”, but most are really interested in how this can be done.
As a mother myself, I like to know what’s going on at my children’s schools and be informed of any changes they are making ahead of when it happens. It’s important to have a positive relationship with the school; after all, it’s also beneficial for them to gain feedback that they may not have taken into consideration beforehand.
As a dad of eight, preparation for World Book Day starts early in my house. Unfortunately, the 'early' assertion usually relates to the morning of the day itself, with my wife and I rifling through the fancy dress box to match outfits to much-loved book characters for our children to wear. While lack of forethought is undoubtedly quite remiss on my part, I work in children's publishing, and so the annual event should have long since ceased to creep up and surprise me. I do love the whirlwind of chaos that results from trying to conceive plausible outfits that look like favourite book protagonists. In an instant, an oversized black coat becomes a wizard's cloak, and a smattering of face paint transforms a child wearing an orange t-shirt into the Cheshire cat.
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