The following article comes from R.E lead Matthew Lane, who shares his experience of teaching his Year 6 bubbles.

We’ve been back in school and teaching in our Year 6 bubbles for four weeks now. It has been filled with smiles, laughter, reunions and fun.

Being with the same 10 people all day, every day can quickly become a tad trying. As I mentioned in my last article, in a previous life I was in the Royal Navy. Whilst jokes are made about the madness of “cabin fever”; the creeping sense of claustrophobia is very real. After a few weeks at sea, it can seem an entirely logical and justifiable idea to throw the Navigator overboard because he chews so ridiculously loudly.

Here are some common symptoms and how to alleviate them.

The same old view

As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. In their small bubbles, even the closest of friends can get sick of the sight of each other. In my school, children have a table in the room which is completely their own with one or two children parallel to them. Each Monday, I have swapped three of the eight children about the room to shake up the lines and who children can most readily speak to. It’s becoming an exciting part of our Monday morning to see which name comes out of the hat and who gets the new view.

Staying grounded

With the same faces day in, day out, people can start to become part of the furniture. You can start to forget the Captain is not called Captain by his family and has a whole life beyond the ship. And it can be the same in school which is why it can be great for teachers and children to share what they are doing outside of the Bubble. What did we all eat for tea last night? What family have we been able to see in our gardens? What books are we all reading and why? Allowing that time for structure small talk at 3:15pm can be a salve on a troubled day.

As a teacher, it can also be helpful to be more open about yourself (within reason) than you would be with a class of 30 children as the dynamics are different. My Bubble have enjoyed hearing about my house renovations – I didn’t think DIY was a hot topic for 11-year-olds!

Video calling between bubbles can be huge fun. The excitement of seeing a pixilated image of a friend waving on a screen can be wonderful. The range on most web cameras and microphones is about 1.5m so children will need to come up to the computer to speak properly to other bubbles. We have trialled doing Collective Worship over video call (we use MS Teams) and it was a great success.

We even used screen sharing to sing a song together. Feedback from microphones can be an issue: make sure everyone mutes their microphone as they “arrive” at Collective Worship.

Expanding your horizons

You may have already found this during Lockdown, but getting out in the fresh air can be a tonic on a trying day. Games like kick-rounders and Diamond cricket are fun games that maintain social distancing.

There are also a whole host of activities from the wonderful Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives series that can be done on your school’s site (look for the Tick Sheets on the pages to find printouts). You could also use this as an opportunity to work towards the Woodland Trusts Green Tree Schools Award.

Like any adventure at sea, teaching in Bubbles will come to an end (or is that pop?). Between now and then we have a great opportunity to explore different ways of teaching and finding a new – and maybe better – pace to school life.


Matthew Lane

Matthew Lane is the RE Lead at a primary school in Norfolk.

Before teaching, he was an officer in the Royal Navy working as a teacher and occasional ship driver.

Follow Matthew on Twitter – @MrMJLane