The summer holidays are now just around the corner and no one will be hanging on for that much needed and long-awaited rest like school staff and their pupils this July.
After a year like no other, few have been immune to the devastation, both socially and economically that the international pandemic has caused. On top of the enormous pressure that has been placed on the education sector, schools and families have had to face considerable disruption and uncertainty around their children’s education.
But is it all bad?
Nobody is denying the disruption that long periods of absence from school can have and, with the BBC reporting that pupils have lost a third of their learning during the pandemic, it is no wonder that there has been such a focus on recovery and how gaps in learning can be addressed. When taken in isolation, the picture looks bleak, but as we know, not all learning happens inside the classroom and where academic progress may have been interrupted, other skills may have flourished.
During the Spring Term, Juniper Education ran a campaign that saw parents using Sonar Awards (Juniper’s Digital Badging platform) to reward pupils for their efforts during extended periods of home-learning. Some of the most popular awards given included, working independently, remaining focused during online lessons, and showing perseverance during difficult tasks. Others were awarded for character strengths such as resilience, kindness, creativity and courage.
You only have to skim through some of the home-learning groups on social media to see how many families have used the time at home to help children discover new passions and talents, showcasing and celebrating their engagement with subjects such as music, science, cookery and outdoor pursuits. As for their ICT skills? It goes without saying that many children (and their parents!) have learnt how to use technology in ways they had never used before.
And whilst many parents have worried about the amount of ‘play’ their children have engaged in over academic work such as maths and literacy, we mustn’t forget the importance of play for social, emotional and cognitive development as well as the fact it can stimulate imagination and curiosity – all skills that will help children learn more broadly and with deeper understanding in the long run.
As Einstein said “Play is the highest form of research”.
As we move into a post-pandemic period and things start to return to ‘normal’, it is important to remember that whilst we strive to recover lost learning, not all learning is academic. Our children have shown us that progress comes in many forms and that there is still much to celebrate. We should continue to give children the opportunity to demonstrate their resourcefulness, independence and creativity and continue to reward them for the many achievements and skills they will have learnt during this period and beyond.