Advice for parents and children adapting to remote education during lockdown

Wednesday 08 September 2021 17:11
<p>Many parents and children will struggle with the new restrictions and resources have been made available to help</p>

Many parents and children will struggle with the new restrictions and resources have been made available to help

For eight-year-old Tyler, remote learning has allowed him to play in the mud and explore on his bike while also discovering a love of maths.

The youngster, who attends Briar Hill school in Northamptonshire, is one of thousands across the country who has had to quickly adapt to a new way of learning during the coronavirus crisis.

“He’s really flourished during these few weeks,” his mother Leanne, a teaching assistant, said.

“The 15 quickfire questions his teachers get his class to do as a warm up first thing every morning really fire him up and then he works pretty independently for the rest of the day.”

However many parents and pupils will have found the past year a struggle, with another lockdown resulting in schools closing for most children.

At a time when many parents are facing both personal and professional challenges, schools are working to ensure that no child will miss out – meaning their education will continue remotely.

Having spent much of 2020 in lockdown, teachers have built up a wealth of experience to help make remote education delivery smoother and more effective.

Emma Marshall, headteacher at the Havelock Academy in Grimsby, said parents helping their children from home should be realistic about what they can achieve.  

“Don’t try and do everything all at once or try to complete everything that the school is setting,” she said. “Nobody is going to tell you you’re doing a terrible job. Teachers massively appreciate the support from parents and we’re here to help you.”

Emma Marshall, headteacher at the Havelock Academy in Grimsby

As for tips to keep youngsters engaged, Ms Marshall said: “Talk to your children. Ask them to tell you five things they’ve learnt that day. Reward them, it doesn’t have to be with physical rewards, it can just be a ‘well done’. Praise goes a long well. And create a safe space just for them - if possible - where they can work.

“I know not everyone has a nice dining room table where they can set their computer up, but if they can find a nice quiet place to learn. Or if you have multiple children, sharing out the time and the space so it’s equal.”

Dr Kate Mason, a clinical psychologist specialising in young people, said ensuring children felt calm and supported was crucial.

“If the children are calm they are more able to learn,” she said. “Get into a good routine, do a visual timetable so kids can actually see what is going to happen throughout the day and the week.

“Kids work best and they thrive better when there’s predictability and structure. It helps them feel contained and it helps them feel safe when they know what is coming next. So a visual timetable – make it all pretty or look cool or whatever.

“Make it together with them and make sure you pepper that with lots of down time and fun stuff and watching a film and something to look forward to at the end of the day. It’s important to keep them looking forward.”

She added: “Remind yourself that you’re not a teacher.

“There’s so much other stuff that you can do with your kids that will be of benefit. Looking after the basics: diet, sleep, exercise and encouraging them to keep talking. Being curious, validate their opinions. Ask them for their advice: what do YOU think I should do in this situation?

“This is such a great opportunity to learn real life skills. If English, maths, science, projects – all that kind of stuff – isn’t going well, come away from it and start to help their brains develop in other respects. 

"Going out for walks, you could count the trees together. Ask them to go and find five things that are red, four things that are shiny, etc. Use that as an opportunity to learn.”

School pupils have been adjusting to remote learning

Stevie Goulding, helpline co-manager from child mental health charity Young Minds, said parents and children would benefit from following a few simple rules, such as breaking up the work, communicating clearly and stepping away from their studies occasionally.

“It’s really important to let your children know that you understand why they might be finding things difficult,” he said. 

“Look for signs they might be struggling – from acting out to withdrawing or finding it hard to calm down. Let them know it’s okay to feel however they feel – whether that’s scared, worried, angry or sad. Reassure them this will pass, you’re there for them, and you’ll get through this together.”

Karen Connell, a mother-of-two and regional marketing manager from Glasgow, said this time around remote learning was proving to be a more positive experience because everyone was better prepared.

“Our kids Charlie and Georgia are unfortunately more used to it, and having to do isolation, after last time,” she said. “The school have been a lot better prepared. It is challenging though, especially with Charlie, who is dyslexic, so needs support. It's just a constant juggle."

Zoe Rahman, a musician from London who also has two children, described remote education as “all-consuming” and at times “frustrating and draining”, but she said the family were “trying to make it as creative and fun as we possibly can”.

She added: “My partner and I are both musicians, so the plus side of not being able to work right now is that we have more time to listen to and play all kinds of music with our children – it's the best education we can give them.”

Many parents and children will still undoubtedly struggle and resources have been made available to help, from BBC Bitesize’s revision and homework help to PE workouts with Joe Wicks.

Extra support is also being offered to disadvantaged children to make sure that no young person misses out on education opportunities over the next few weeks.

How the government is supporting remote education provision

  • The government is investing over £400m to support disadvantaged children and young people with access to technology through the pandemic, including securing 1.3 million laptops and tablets.
  • The Department for Education has partnered with some of the UK’s leading mobile network operators to provide free data to disadvantaged families, further supporting remote education where it’s needed. Families will benefit from this additional data until July 2021.
  • 54,000 4G wireless routers have been provided, with free data for the academic year, to support disadvantaged children to access remote education and vital social care services.
  • Find out more information at gov.uk/coronavirus

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