The wellbeing of pupils has been the central focus this week, as we welcome them back to school. But, because of the unique situation of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, it is hard to gauge the full impact that the situation has had on our pupils’ mental health and wellbeing. Returning to school is an exciting and happy time for most of our pupils but we are aware that some might be anxious for a number of reasons: they might be worried about safety, seeing their peers again, the pressure of schoolwork increasing, an increased structure and pace of life or even just managing a different sleep routine. Prep School staff are used to supporting pupils through the challenges that they face in life and this week has been no different.
The aim of the first week back was to allow pupils to settle back into the routines and pace of school life, as well as enjoying time with their friends. Extended Form Tutor periods have allowed pupils to reflect on the period of remote learning, to ask any questions they may have and to be involved in activities that allowed them to reconnect with their peer groups. Year 3 and 4, pupils have had lots of opportunity to talk and catch up as well as lots of paired work in lessons. Pupils have also played some games in form time such as ‘Guess who’ and ‘Find the Fib’. In English, Year 4 have been writing letters to Boris Johnson, outlining how they feel the government can best inform schools to support children returning to school – some interesting viewpoints! In PSHEE Year 5 and 6 looked at the story of The Hare and The Tortoise, with a focus on self-belief and in Year 7 and 8, staff have also led sessions on sleep and resilience to support pupils return to school. Our older pupils have also had some interesting discussions about the Lateral Flow Testing procedure, and Mr Hoare was delighted at how mature the pupils were during their testing.
At the start of the week, we were blessed with glorious weather, and the pupils certainly made the most of it at break times. Pupils were able to spend time with their friends, enjoy a game of football or building dens in the woods and Honey, the school’s therapy dog was also on hand for those pupils that wanted a little more reassurance. In addition to Honey, our amazing team of Mental Health First Aiders ensured that the time4u room and wellbeing walks were also available to those pupils that wanted a little extra support.
Continuing the theme of outdoor play, Mr Martin and Mrs Hood ensured that the games program for the week had a real focus on teamwork and despite the wet weather later in the week all of the pupils have enjoyed some friendly competition.
In order to slowly ease the pupils back into the structure of their timetable and classroom routine and expectations, teaching staff planned lots of collaborative learning opportunities, informal and low-stakes quizzes and activities to gauge how secure pupils are in their understanding and application of concepts and skills introduced this term, ‘time to talk’ opportunities, moments of meta-cognitive reflections to discuss pupils’ experiences of remote learning including positives and areas of the curriculum that will need re-visiting to further consolidation and gentle prep tasks with generous deadlines. The children have responded with enthusiasm and have shown that they are becoming increasingly more versatile in resorting to the life skills and learning habits that we try to instil into them. They have certainly had to be self-managers and tenacious learners over the last few weeks of remote learning and this week, despite the obvious and inevitable tiredness of re-adjusting to a longer day in school, pupils have shown what reflective and fantastic team-players and participators they are.
And finally, whilst it is incredibly important to acknowledge the challenges and losses that we have all experienced due to the virus, it is also vital look to the future with confidence. With the knowledge that a strong network of support is available, some of the worry that pupils may be experiencing, hopefully, will be alleviated.