Welcome to the second post in our series examining how schools have helped children and their families through the worst effects of the pandemic.
This week we catch up with Colette Firth, Executive Head of St John’s Church School in Peterborough.
When we first went into lockdown back in March 2020, schools were suddenly faced with having to switch to remote learning.
Colette tells us: “All schools deal with things slightly differently and in times of crisis, they tend to go into their comfort zones. At our school, the focus has always been on teaching and learning, so we really pulled out all the stops to make sure we could keep doing live learning.”
The Digital Divide
We’ve heard a lot about the digital divide over the past two years, with school closures almost certain to increase educational inequalities. Some reports suggest that a large proportion of families didn’t have access to a laptop or the internet during lockdown.
Schools have rallied to respond to these challenges, striving to do everything they could to help those most in need.
Colette adds: “We made sure we gave a laptop to every family who needed one. There was nobody at home who couldn’t access the live learning. It actually turned out to be a brilliant opportunity for us to get parents to see what we do every day. They got a real view into the world of the school. We could see parents sitting on the sofa watching the lessons. It was like Gogglebox. It was brilliant!”
Communication is key
Colette has found that the pandemic has actually strengthened relationships between parents and staff. Parents got involved in the lessons during home learning and showed their gratitude each time the school reopened.
One of the deputy heads at St John’s runs workshops to support families, focusing on things like behaviour and positive reinforcement, which have been well received by parents.
Support with sleep
And the support the school offers parents has extended beyond the worst of the pandemic. Parents feel they can approach the school for help now that those lines of communication have been nurtured.
Colette tells us: “We found that more and more parents were approaching us saying their children were struggling with sleep. Our SENCO is a trained occupational therapist, so we sent her on a sleep practitioner course, and she now runs clinics for parents.”
And they’ve had some great feedback. Kerran Harwood, who also works at St John’s, reached out to the occupational therapist for advice when her daughter – who had always struggled with her sleep and has recently received an autism diagnosis – was in Year 1:
“The OT carried out a sleep survey with us and suggested slight changes to our routine.
My daughter has lower levels of melatonin in her system, and so sleep is a massive challenge, despite clear routines.
We introduced a box of activities – puzzles, colouring books and board games – along with ‘sleep friendly’ foods and warm bath and story before bed.
This new routine has given her time and space to share her feelings before bedtime, which has meant that – although going to sleep later than her peers – she is calm and ready to sleep once she gets into bed!
I am incredibly grateful that I was able to access the support from a qualified sleep practitioner at a very challenging time for our family and believe it is a vital tool for many schools to be able to support their families fully.”
We think the work schools do to improve the lives of families in their communities is worth celebrating. That’s why we’re encouraging you to get involved with National Thank A Teacher Day on 26th May.
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