This pandemic has, of course, impacted our society, economy and education system in many different ways.

There is so much talk about a new normal, which is great.

When bad things happen it is an opportunity to change, create goodness, rekindle hope and find new ways to prosper.

It gives us a chance and reminder to look at our weaknesses and vulnerabilities and to work on them.

So the question is, will schools and education in general change? Is it not time for a new normal for schools?

Why is it that we can adapt how we work, how we socialise, how we shop and yet, one of the most important systems in our society looks set to be unchanged?

We need to look at how the last few months has affected our young students and children.

The government has made an absolute shambles of the exams.

Exam and assessment grades were never the best way to show students’ abilities. Perhaps this year’s events will help us to realise that we need a new model. We need a new approach to learning.

We need to step away from this system that decides that exams are best for everyone. What kind of a system shows 16 years of learning in a handful of exams and written assessments?

Living in lockdown and with fear of infection is hard enough for adults, we cannot ignore the psychological impact this has had on children.

If they are to be forced back into school, than school needs to become a place where they not only feel safe, but have the opportunity to reclaim a part of themselves.

The part of them that loves to learn and to learn through play and creativity.

Because, quite frankly, whether we admit it or not, school does have a negative impact on how much children enjoy learning. Yes it varies from child to child. But for most, school turns learning into a chore.

Learning becomes associated with a gruelling 6 hour day, sitting at a desk and obeying instructions from adults.

Yet, despite this,  when schools close, we expect children to be able to manage their own learning and to stay motivated to study. How can they when they have never been shown how to learn independently and are unsure what to do without adult instruction?

We owe it to our young students to change the way we think about teaching.

We need to look at how quickly children learn in the first few years of their lives. The years where they spend most of their time in play, and yet somehow develop so much both physically and cognitively. We need to look at how curious they are between the ages of 0 – 7 about everything around them. They want to know, see and touch everything.

They already have the instinct to learn and the ability to create- without any adult intervention.

The idea of failing does not exist in their world, they fall over and simply get back up. They do not wait for permission to try again.

The traditional schooling system crushes these instincts.

I have been in too many classrooms where children are afraid to look at new equipment for fear of being told off or to try something with it incase they get it wrong.

This year their curriculum needs to be focused on more than core subjects.

It needs to focus on motivating children and helping them to realise their own natural love of learning.

Yes it is important that they catch up on the maths and english that they have missed. But without the natural motivation and desire to explore and understand the world around them, what is the point in depositing yet more mundane facts into their uninterested minds?

How do we do this? How do we implement creativity, more play and hands on learning? It was difficult before and now we have the added challenge of social distancing.

But actually, I think it may be a lot easier now to introduce things like robotics into the classroom.

I also think it should be easier to implement project based or enquiry based learning.

If children can’t work physically next to each other, it also means they can’t fight over equipment and resources. Perfect.

Smaller class sizes mean its easier to buy enough for a full class. Each class can simply share on a rota basis.

Now is the best time to invest in some practical equipment and save a lot of money.

Each class can do practical activities for perhaps 2 weeks, the equipment then gets cleaned and passed to the next class for 2 weeks and so on.

Regarding teamwork and communication; students can work together on separate desks, they will need to learn how to communicate better both through spoken and written english.

Students have been let down since the lockdown began here in the uk. Many of them missed the opportunity to say goodbye to their friends. Most have  missed out on some crucial learning.

Let’s look at this academic year through their eyes and with their needs in mind.

This year, let’s make school a place for them where they can be curious again. A place where they can try out new things without the pressure of failing or passing, a place where they can play and explore and discover knowledge in a way that they enjoy.

 

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