This year has been very out of the ordinary, and many children have not set foot in their school since March. As well as this, it is highly likely that the school they return to over the coming weeks will be very different from the place they left behind five months ago.
Schools are now working on government guidelines to ensure schools are safe with reasonable social distancing measures. This may mean that your school has staggered start and finish times for different classes or year groups. Children may also enter and exit through different doors than expected. Some schools cannot safely accommodate the usual number of children for hot school meals, so these may not be available. As well as this, there may be a limit on what children can bring to school with them. To avoid crowding in cloakrooms, children may be asked to bring to school only that which will fit in a small tray in the classroom.
Your school should be in touch with you (if they haven’t already) to confirm the exact details of what will happen for your child’s return to school. The government have also released a document for parents and carers, which you can read here (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/what-parents-and-carers-need-to-know-about-early-years-providers-schools-and-colleges-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/what-parents-and-carers-need-to-know-about-early-years-providers-schools-and-colleges-in-the-autumn-term)
Having spent up to five months at home, children are likely to be apprehensive and nervous about returning to school. Whether they are worried about the virus, the change in circumstances or have the usual worries about a new school year with a new teacher, this will be a stressful time for them. Here are some tips to help to calm both parents and children as the return to school looms:
- Talk to them about what will happen. As soon as your school releases information regarding start and end times, entrance points and so on, talk it through with your child. Give them an idea of what to expect when they arrive at school on that first day.
- Refresh their memories. Many children will have undertaken some form of homeschooling during the spring and summer terms; they may even have been in school where possible. We have had the summer holidays though, and part of their worry may be to do with doing school work in a different environment. It’s worth looking through sites like BBC Bitesize (https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize) with them or even just encouraging them to do a little reading and writing so that they can get back into learning mode.
- Listen to their concerns. It can be tempting - with both adults and children - to dismiss worries with "it’ll be fine” or similar. Often when someone is expressing their concerns they understand that you can’t do much about it; they just want to be heard and acknowledged. Allow your child to talk about what is bothering them openly. If you are able to allay their concerns with reassurance about systems put in place by the school, by all means do so. Otherwise it may be enough simply to listen.
- Arrange to meet friends from their class before returning to school. Government guidance seems to be changing fairly frequently, but a socially distanced meet-up within the guidelines can make a world of difference. In many cases children will not have seen their friends for several months and they may feel nervous about returning to school. Reminding them of their friendships can really help to bolster their confidence.