By Sian Goodspeed, founder of Flying Start Tuition

Monday’s announcement that schools will be reopening from 8th March was welcome news for many parents and children across the country. With the disruption to schooling over the past year, it’s natural to feel worried that your child might have fallen behind with their learning.  This concern is likely being fuelled right now with all the talk in the media about the need for children to make up for lost learning time. 

So, do our children really need to catch up? The government seems to think so and have pledged millions of pounds for extra tuition, holiday learning programmes and extended school days. Inevitably, there has been an impact on children’s learning this year and schools have not been able to deliver the same curriculum content as usual. But is piling on extra tuition, extending school days and cutting back on holidays the best way to address this?

I don’t believe so. 

As we’re all aware, this past year has been a turbulent one. It has taken its toll on so many of us and the ongoing impact on our children’s emotional and physical wellbeing is a cause for great concern. With stress and anxiety levels at an all-time high, it is absolutely vital that wellbeing takes priority over and above academic catch-up plans. 

Rather than rushing to make up for lost learning, our children need to make up for all the other things they have had to sacrifice this year. They need to see friends, visit family, have fun, play outside, take trips out. And they need to be given the space and freedom to do this without a mountain of extra schoolwork looming over them.  

Inevitably, many children will have lost some of the skills and knowledge that they previously had – but, as a teacher of 25 years, I can safely say that always occurs anyway. This is why, when we revisit a topic, we go back a few steps, check in with the students and see what level they are at – and we take it from there.

It’s true that overall learning progress will have slowed this year and that not all the usual National Curriculum targets will have been met. But it’s important to acknowledge that this has happened across the board – not just in one year-group. The National Curriculum provides benchmarks – and benchmarks can be moved. So, as long as teachers are allowed the flexibility to gear their teaching towards the children in front of them, there will be no need to ‘catch up’. All they need to do is to carry on.

Of course, it isn’t as simple as that. The disruption to schooling has not impacted all children equally. Some have coped well academically during the past year, engaging well with their learning in whatever form it took. Others haven’t engaged at all. Sadly, the gap between the higher and lower achievers has, in all likelihood, widened. I sincerely hope that the government funding is allocated in a way that serves to bridge that gap. 

If you feel your child would benefit from doing some extra schoolwork, it’s important to note that quality of learning is far more important than quantity. Children learn best when the task is fun and engaging and they’re in the right mindset. So heaping on extra work when they’d rather be outside playing will be counterproductive. Remember: if your child is feeling anxious, overwhelmed or tired they won’t learn effectively anyway – so prioritise their emotional wellbeing and the learning is more likely to follow.

5 ways to boost your child’s (and your!) emotional wellbeing 

  1. Switch off the news!

Turn off the television and stop scrolling through social media! There’s so much negativity out in the digital world right now. It’s too easy to get sucked in and pulled down by it. Far better to put down the phone and spend that time focusing on the things that lift you up instead. 

  • Make time to play

We all need time to have some fun but so often our busy schedules mean the play time gets side lined.  Allow your child time each day to play, follow their interests or simply to chill out and daydream. Don’t forget you need to play too – and make time to be playful! Laughing, joking around and generally being silly (even if you don’t feel like it) will boost the endorphins and raise the happiness levels.

  • Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep is absolutely essential for our emotional wellbeing – inadequate sleep can lead to irritability, weepiness and meltdowns! Children need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep each night. A relaxing wind-down routine (no gadgets allowed!) will help your child to get their quota.  For advice on how to set up good sleep habits, check out Olive Hickmott’s talk: Sleep – A Lifelong Skill: https://youtu.be/Zv8CyCJ9KeQ

  • Eat well

A balanced, healthy diet is clearly important for physical wellbeing but what we eat affects our emotions too. When we’re feeling stressed-out or down, it’s so tempting to reach for the sugary snacks and comfort foods but these play havoc with blood sugar levels and will affect mood and concentration. Good nutrition is also vital for a strong immune system – even more important than ever right now.

  • Enjoy the great outdoors

Fresh air and exercise are so vital for our physical and emotional wellbeing. With spring on the way and the days getting longer there will be plenty of time after school for your child to get outside and get fit! If your child is reluctant to go on those family walks, geocaching is a great way to combine fresh air and exercise whilst having fun: https://www.geocaching.com/play

Need a little expert help?

If you’d like some support with your child’s learning, Flying Start Tuition’s online school will be continuing once schools reopen. These bespoke lessons mean your child and his/her classmates can learn together in one of our virtual classrooms. You get the group together, tell us which topics to focus on and leave the rest to us! From only £9 / hour per child.

To find out more about Flying Start Tuition, visit our website: www.flyingstarttuition.co.uk

Email: hello@flyingstarttuition.co.uk   Call: 01494 772898

For advice on supporting your child’s learning at home check out: Home Schooling Survival Tips for Parents: https://www.facebook.com/groups/529916137522321