Year 6 primary teacher Tom Griffiths talks about the wonderful resilience of children and how his school created a positive environment for them to return to post-lockdown.

Children...they are tiny humans. They believe in magic, fairy tales and hopes. They cross their fingers. They make MILLIONS of wishes which makes them more resilient than adults. They SURVIVE the worst and RECOVER fast. They BELIEVE.

Children going to school

This quote by Richa Joshi has really resonated with me since we re-opened to more classes on 1st June.

After months of home schooling and lots of uncertainty, we were able to bring back our pre-school, Nursery and Reception pupils (Yr 1 followed a week later) along with our key worker children and we have been thrilled with how well everyone has adapted to their bubbles (at my school, we call them pods).

Not that we should have been surprised, as the Senior Leadership Team have worked exceptionally hard to create a clear plan, multiple timetables and communicate this effectively to both staff and parents/carers, which has then been implemented by all our fantastic team within our pods.

The true test however, was that first day. From being out on the playground each day, I have to say it looked like it was generally the parents/carers who were more apprehensive than the children during those first few days. This shows how quickly children can adapt; despite spots on the playground to line up on, being separated from their classmates in small pods and regular hand washing, they were not fazed.

Creating a Safe & Secure Environment

Mastens and Barnes’ 2018 article (Resilience in Children: Developmental Prospectives) examined the challenges facing childhood experiences, the criteria for a child’s adaptive success as well as the promotive or protective processes supporting this success. They complied common resilience factors for child development.

Whether you have read this article or not, as educators you will be aware of these factors and ensure they are commonplace in your schools: the importance of close relationships and emotional security; positive views of themselves and their identity and routines and rituals to name but a few on the list. Before bringing back our children, our class teachers worked in their year groups to map a flexible timetable for the Summer 2 term looking at how to support our pupils.

Our primary focus was to ensure our children feel safe and secure in their adapted school – if we didn’t have that then there wouldn’t be the right ethos for learning. Working alongside our Jigsaw PSHE scheme, our weeks are led by themes (this week is ‘Heroes’) so that we explore belonging, gratitude, loss/bereavement and the year ahead.

Valuing Feelings

Our school behaviour policy is underpinned by our four Bs, and one of these is Be Safe. In light of COVID-19, this ‘B’ has now widened.

Our teachers spent their first day in their pods really exploring this, including using games, and feelings were frequently linked to this: how many different feelings can you have? Do we all feel feelings at the same time?

The Colour Monster’ by Anna Llenas was a fantastic book to accompany this discussion and our youngest pupils were able to articulate their thoughts using these colours, as well as creating masks to discuss how they were feeling.

Child with crayons

Giving Pupils Closure

The next step was trying to bring back year groups back for a day. We felt this was crucial so that those children at home got some sense of closure.

The next step for us was trying to bring back those year groups not currently in school back for a day. We felt this was crucial so that those children at home got some sense of closure on a strange year and got to meet their new teacher whilst seeing how school had adapted in their absence.

Year 2 will be back across the next week, and all the support from our parents/carers around this has made all our hard work and planning worthwhile.

It has been a lovely two weeks in school so far this half term. Our school feels reinvigorated again – there is laughter and children’s voices echoing through the corridors and the atmosphere is great. Our recovery curriculum is planned to suit and support our children and it is refreshing to see everyone focusing on our main task: teaching.

There will be challenges ahead but we will face them head-on, support each other and adapt our practice where necessary.

I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.

Maya Angelou
Tom Griffiths teacher

Author

Tom Griffiths

Tom Griffiths is the Assistant Headteacher of a 2 form entry primary school in Solihull, West Midlands and currently teaches Year 6. He leads on assessment and safeguarding in his school.

Tom is also the co-host of the #EduPubChat on Twitter for @MenTeachPrimary and has contributed to two books: ‘The Leader Reader’ and ‘What They Didn’t Teach Me On My PGCE’.

You can follow Tom on Twitter: @TJGriffiths.