Back to School With a Difference – Returning During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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2020 has been a year like no other. We have had to face some really challenging times during the lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools were forced to close and parents around the globe were forced to oversee education from home. Those parents who were fortunate enough to be able to work from home performed a difficult juggling act of trying to complete their own work online and home-schooling their children, while others faced losing their employment on top of the already stressful situation. Either way, educating children from home was a difficult task for parents.
As an online tutor, I was able to help support several students throughout the lockdown. Parents reported vast differences in support from their children’s schools. Some teachers embraced the opportunity to work online and delivered lessons through live video links and utilised platforms to post work for students to complete. Unfortunately, this was the exception to the rule, as many teachers floundered and found they just did not have the training or the resources to be able to continue teaching students and resorted to either emailing piles of work to poor, overburdened parents or, worse still, just instructed pupils to continue working their way through textbooks with no guidance whatsoever.
As can be expected, we now face a unique situation this Autumn: we have the result of the ‘summer slide’ to contend with on top of the ‘COVID slide’. Many students will find themselves struggling with classwork as we return to school this term. The mental stress of this insecurity, topped with the strange ‘new normal’ that our children face, with social distancing, rigid sanitising rules and restrictions on mixing with other groups within school will make for a difficult year for many students.
So, what will this ‘new normal’ look like? Many schools have staggered opening and closing times for different classes and year groups. Children have been given new routines to follow, ensuring they wash their hands before coming to school and sanitising on arriving in the building. There are new one-way systems in place and doors to be used by certain classes in an attempt at maintaining social distance and keeping close contact to a minimum. Many schools have also staggered break times and mealtimes for the same reasons. Primary school pupils will also face restructured classes to reduce class sizes. Parents have also been advised not to enter school premises and to keep all contact via phone calls and emails. Even payments being made to schools are now being made online.
Many parents, myself included, worry about the effects on our children’s mental health. Our children are naturally worried about returning to school after such a long absence. What can we do to reassure them? I have put together my own list of what worked for us and hopefully, you will find this useful too.
1. Talk about the things that are different this term.
We have discussed in great detail how the daily routine will be different. Our children have been concerned about new routines and worry about forgetting what to do. Put their minds at rest by talking over little details in their routine, like using different doors to enter school, making sure they sanitise their hands regularly during the day and restrict the numbers of people they have close contact with.
2. Keep working at home.
Many schools have decided NOT to give homework to students at the moment, in order to minimise any risks of bringing the virus into school through books being sent back and forth. This does not mean children should not do any work at home. We are all aware of the importance of extra practice at ANYTHING – from piano practice to times tables – and we must not use the pandemic as an excuse to let this slide. Children need to go over new skills to consolidate them. There are many ways in which we can support them at home, including playing games, using technology and, of course, more formal practice.
3. Talk about the school day.
Find out what is being covered at school by asking your child and the teacher. Research has shown that students’ performance improves dramatically when parents are actively involved in the support of the learning.
4. Find a tutor to work with your child.
Tutors have a great insight into how children work, what level they are currently at and can easily identify any gaps in learning. Helping your child bridge these gaps will provide a solid foundation for the work ahead of them this year.
Emerald Education Centre offers support to parents and students, both online and in-person. Our classes are tailor-made for your child, so we can work to fill in any gaps and give your child the tools to succeed. There are several different ways in which we can support the families we work with. We offer face-to-face lessons at our centre in small groups in addition to one-to-one online lessons and small group online lessons using Zoom. We can also provide asynchronous lessons, where we give work for your child to complete in their own time and submit for our tutors to mark and give feedback. We also provide the option of a short video call for this type of work. As you can see, there is something to suit everyone, with tutoring in Maths and English for 5-18-year-olds. We would love to help YOUR child. If you would like to find out more, please do get in touch. We are here to help!
Emerald Education Centre offers online tuition and in-person lessons at our centre in Bundoran, Donegal. For more information about how we can help YOUR child, please do get in touch with Elaine Lingard at, check out our Facebook page or visit our website.

2 thoughts on “Back to School With a Difference – Returning During the COVID-19 Pandemic”

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