Helping with your child’s home education

Home Learning

Astounded, confused and anxious. These are some of the feelings that have been communicated to me by parents following the announcement from Downing Street that Boris Johnston wishes to reopen sections of English primary schools next month.  

Johnson’s plan includes an initial phased return of Reception (P1), Year 1 (P2) and Year 6 (P7) children. This decision truly beggars belief and I would like to know who is advising him on this strategy. My only conclusion is that they have never worked in nor visited a public run primary school. Most school classrooms are already so overcrowded that it will be virtually impossible to maintain the required 2 metres distance. In addition to this, any teacher that has taught children in the earlier years will confirm that 5 and 6-year-olds do not understand the concept of personal space. They are so affectionate and most will embrace everyone they meet. In addition to this, they will grab you by the hand to show you instead of telling you and many will have runny noses that they need help with. The government has failed miserably in terms of the provision of PPE for our amazing health care workers, I’m not entirely confident how they plan to protect our school staff and pupils.  

Thankfully, the politicians in Stormont are standing firm on their September (at the earliest) reopening forecast. In the recently published 5 step plan, the current provisions for education will remain the same until step 2 when more key worker’s children will return to school ‘subject to risk assessment and adhering to maximum capacities’. Step 3 will see a return of ‘priority cohorts…with a combination of in-school and remote learning’ which I assume will contain P6 children as a result of Transfer Test preparation. Step 4 includes a phased return of all children on a part-time basis and Step 5 a return to full-time education for all children. Many may feel frustrated; however, I am given some confidence that no concrete dates have been attached to these steps. It shows logical thinking that you can’t move onto a stage until all of the current criteria has been met. Reviews will be taken every 3 weeks to monitor any changes before considering moving between the stages.   

The position of the 2020 Transfer Test has been given some clarity this week. Both tests have been delayed by a couple of weeks with the new GL exam being held on the 5th December and AQE dates confirmed as the 21st November, 28th November and 12th December. Registration for the GL test opens from the 1st June – 9th October and 14th May – 25th September for those wishing to register for the AQE exam. 

It has been a busy week in regards to education announcements as the Education Authority has confirmed that P7 children will receive their post-primary school letters on Thursday 4th June. All of the people working in the background must be commended for limiting the delay by 5 days given the current circumstances, especially as I know the children that I helped for last year’s exam are excited to find out where they will be going in the next academic year.  

With the only thing certain being that children will not be returning to school in the near future, a lot of the onus falls on parents to provide their children with an education. You may be comforted to hear that you are not the only person struggling with this. Children refusing to do their work, lack of motivation, arguments, boredom and loneliness are some of the cries that I am hearing from parents. Do I limit my child’s screen time or let them run wild? The key is to try and strike a balance and not to be too critical of your efforts. It has taken qualified teachers years of experience, and ongoing personal development, to fully grasp the art of teaching. Nobody is expecting a parent or guardian to deliver a classroom quality lesson or to achieve the same results, but simply to do your best with the time you have.  

To strike a balance, it is essential to have a timetable and a daily routine. In the classroom, I always display a timetable on the whiteboard and a child is selected to rub it off as we complete a particular lesson. This works amazingly well as it gives a sense of achievement once a task is finished and clearly outlines what activities are left. It also helps to have a reward (such as tablet time) at the end of the table, which includes a question mark beside it, stating that the child will only receive this upon completion of the day’s tasks. If you feel your child requires more short term, positive behaviour reinforcement, reward charts work exceptionally well. There is an abundance of these online and my suggestion would be to find or make one that contains a picture of your child’s interest.  

Start your day off by reading. The benefit of this can only be described as magical. When I have 30 children arrive into school each morning, all full of energy wanting to do nothing but chat to their friends, reading is the one thing that grounds and helps everyone (including me) focus. It is important to read alongside your child during this time, a newspaper, book, magazine, anything! This helps promote a positive reading image and create a ‘reading for pleasure’ environment within your home. The positive impacts of reading are almost endless. It creates transferable skills across all subjects, builds on their vocabulary, helps children (and adults) relax and teaches them about the world we live in. It is also beneficial to try and include some form of exercise in the morning section of your timetable. This works especially well with those children that have an abundance of energy. 

 If you require any further information in regards to timetables, or indeed anything else related to home-schooling, please do not hesitate to contact us. Also, keep an eye out for my weekly column for education updates and home-schooling tips.  

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