A Special Set of Circumstances
Last week, our school closed our doors to all children except those of critical workers. We were advised that the safest place for our students was at home and so that was where we sent them; our Principal turning taxis away at the gates on Tuesday morning, imploring parents not to send children to school – for the first time, school was not safe. As a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities setting all our students have an EHC Plan and so could have been in school but we didn’t have the staff to remain open, nor the means to prevent the spread of the virus if we had.
Currently our stoic skeleton crew stands as two teams of three adults alternating each week to supervise and support four children of varying ages and needs. However, the recovery of some self-isolating colleagues and the rising boredom of others means that our rota and plans are now updated each day – the cause of many frustrated headaches. Those of us isolated by living alone are prioritised to be in to protect our well-being and reduce those potentially exposed such as whole families at home, we are lucky to have a leadership team that cares enough to consider these factors. On top of this and all other current sources of anxiety, the school feels sinister…
For years I have walked the empty corridors of schools in the mornings and evenings, on training days, strike days, and similar occasions. For years I have done this and felt the lingering sense of anticipation held within, contained in quiet classrooms and harnessed by skilled practitioners to become excitement for all the journeys and discoveries yet to be made. The learning that we look forward to. But now these silent hallways feel wrong, uncomfortable, as though the school itself is uncertain. I call my family in the evenings and tell them about my day “on the alien planet”.
And yet we are presented with a special set of circumstances. Based in our Early Years cabin we find ourselves experimenting with learning and activities; guided by the children, their curiosity and needs. As a school we aspire to implementing an Early Years format throughout the primary department and here we find ourselves doing so, in practice. Each day we explore our world through play and learn continuously as we do, even the eldest of our children (year 5). Is this a silver lining to the Covid Cloud, seeing the future of our learning style? The flexibility enabled by learning through play is allowing us to imagine new ways of learning at home for those staying away to stay safe, without piling pressure onto parents and carers. In our own way we are fighting against the virus, with play and positivity.
I hope to find excitement in seeing the success of this new teaching style, so that we may look forward to returning our school community to its home – to once again explore and learn together.