Wellbeing & Academic Recovery and Beyond Curriculum
Putting Children's Mental Health and Wellbeing first....
Social and Emotional Learning
Why are we focusing on relationships first?
Since the beginning of lockdown senior leaders and staff have spent a considerable amount of time researching and attending online training to further develop their own understanding of the effects Covid may have had on children. Staff have spent time looking at evidence and research by Barry Carpenter, Mary Myatt and Tom Sherrington, to name a few. The evidence available suggests children (and parents) were likely to feel anxious about the return and would need support, reassurance and positivity when they come back.
Wellbeing is at the forefront of our recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. Every child in our school has had a different experience during this time and as a school we have prioritised what the children will need on their return to school.
With that in mind, I’d like to provide you with a summary of both our approach and the thinking behind it. We hope that you feel this approach will support your child’s well-being as they begin their re-engagement with learning at school.
A Recovery Curriculum: Loss and Life for our Children and Schools Post Pandemic
Our recovery framework is based upon the work of mental health expert, Professor Barry Carpenter and the Evidence for Learning team, which sets out the importance of recognising the trauma and loss that children will have been through during the Covid-19 pandemic. Successful transition for children to enable them to once again become efficient and confident learners is key. The way in which we do this is to acknowledge and accept the losses that we have all been through during the pandemic.
Recently, Barry wrote a think piece entitled A Recovery Curriculum: Loss and Life for our children and schools post pandemic . Barry Carpenter identifies 5 losses that children will have suffered during the last six months and recommends five sensible ‘levers’ that can help schools recover following a ‘systematic, relationships-based approach to reigniting the flame of learning in each child.’
“The common thread that runs through the current lived experiences of our children, is loss. From loss emanates three significant dynamics that will impact majorly on the mental health of our children. Anxiety, trauma and bereavement are powerful forces. For them all to appear at once in an untimely and unplanned fashion is significant for the developing child. Our children are vulnerable at this time, and their mental-health fragile. And on top of that, they are witnessing a sea of adult anxiety, which they unwittingly are absorbing.” (Carpenter and Carpenter, 2020).
Barry Carpenter identified 5 losses that children have suffered throughout this time:
Loss of routine: means that we are likely to have at some point had disrupted sleep patterns, change in coping mechanisms, worried or become confused at lack of routine.
Loss of structure: would indicate that we may not have been following the same structures for learning that we have previously been accustomed to, we may have worries over lack of control and in particular change, we may have lost out on our right to carryout important transitions in our lives such as SATS, secondary school visits, end of year parties, moving onto the next year group when Y6 and 11 leave school.
Loss of friendship: whilst we haven’t lost friendships and those people still remain in our lives we will not have been able to interact with them in the way we were previously used to, we grieve for the deeper social interaction and connectedness that friendship and relationships bring.
Loss of opportunity: many children and adults do not understand why school was closed, why we were no longer able to meet up with our friends and had to remain at home and indoors for most of the day. We do not understand fully why the decisions were made and for children in particular, they do not have the understanding that the Government made the decisions to partially close schools and that it wasn’t their teachers or other school staff who took those decisions. For this reason, it is vitally important that we help children to understand that their safety was and is our primary concern.
Loss of freedom: for some children and adults school offers a place of escape, somewhere that they can be who they want to be and allows a sense of freedom to explore, make mistakes and to learn from them
The primary focus of our recovery curriculum is to ‘help children to recover from their loss of routine, structure, friendship, sleep, opportunity and freedom’
In response to the loss our children are experiencing, Barry Carpenter identifies 5 levers of recovery –
Here at Bolshaw, we have put children's well-being at the centre of our thinking. We acknowledge that the children will have had different experiences during the last few years. However, as the days pass it is coming more apparent that the common thread running through many of our children and families has been the loss of routine, structure, friendship, opportunity and freedom which Barry Carpenter refers to. These losses can trigger anxiety, worry, anger or lack of focus in any child. Some of you may have experienced this with your own children.
We know that children who are not emotionally secure are not in a place to learn effectively. So with this in mind, our school staff have thought about the most effective way to support your child’s ability to learn. We have decided that the way to achieve this for the children is to acknowledge the importance of helping them lever back into school life by putting their mental health first.
This approach will encompass and support them socially and emotionally so they can succeed academically.
As we move through the term we will be considering the 5 levers as we plan forward. We believe that it will also allow us to consider the approach that we need to take towards your child’s recovery. By placing your child at the centre of their recovery journey, acknowledging the importance of their lived experiences with a focus on instilling felt safety, security and stability will ultimately help them on the road to recovery.
Academic 'Recovery and Beyond' Curriculum
Curriculum coverage and assessments:
The second thing we have done is to look carefully at our curriculum and prioritise what children must learn, what skills and knowledge they need to move forward rapidly? Nobody fully knows how children have been affected by the absence of school routine.
Academically, we have started to use informal formative assessments within Maths and English to assist our planning for children to make progress. We felt it would serve no purpose to children or staff to start this academic year by testing children to find ‘gaps’ in their learning, or by reminding them of what they have missed. All children learn at different paces and all children have times where they find learning a challenge – this is healthy, and staff are well-prepared for how to support children during this time.
Through effective, appropriate assessments our priorities for this term are to find out what the impact of the disruption to learning has been for every individual pupil. The purpose of this starting point assessment is:
- to identify individuals/groups/cohorts who have fallen behind expectations
- to identify what curriculum adjustments need to be made to support ‘catch up’ and return as many children as possible to Age Related Expectations by the end of 2020/2021
- to record an accurate assessment profile for school tracking and monitoring purposes and to inform school improvement planning and self-evaluation.
Whilst there is an urgency to this, there are some principles which we believe should underpin the process:
- For many children, September has been their first return to full time education in almost six months. Time needs to be allowed to re-acclimatise to the school learning environment and expectations. Time needs to be taken to check in with pupils’ emotional well-being and support the re-establishment of positive social interaction with peers and with staff. Therefore, using formal assessment methods too soon would be inappropriate.
- The assessments we will be using need to be meaningful, they need to reflect what children can do once they are back in their ‘normal’ educational environment and re-acquainted with school expectations of learning behaviour: this will take some time to re-establish.
- Whilst ‘tests’ can be useful the emphasis needs to be on effective diagnostic assessment for learning which will allow teachers to understand the gaps in learning and plan to meet the range of needs in their classes.
- Starting point assessments need to be considered alongside the teacher assessments from the end of 2019/2020 to determine which children are most vulnerable and need further support, and which cohorts/subjects will need considerable focus.
Assessments so far….
Children in our Reception class, will focus on the EYFS areas of learning, including: communication and language, personal, social and emotional development (PSED) and physical development. Teachers will assess the children’s stages of learning and development against the statements in the Early Years curriculum. They will address gaps in language, early reading and mathematics, particularly ensuring children’s acquisition of phonic knowledge and extending their vocabulary. We will be following the EYFS disapplication guidance.
Key Stage One and Key Stage 2
For pupils in key stages 1 and 2, school staff will prioritise to identify gaps and re-establish good progress in the essentials (phonics and reading, increasing vocabulary, writing and mathematics), identifying opportunities across the curriculum so they read widely, and developing their knowledge and vocabulary. The curriculum will remain broad, so that the majority of pupils are taught a full range of subjects over the year, including sciences, humanities, the arts, physical education/sport, religious education and relationships and health education.
In reading, children have been “benchmarked” to give a starting point. This is an individual, one-to-one assessment which checks both accuracy of reading together with understanding. In a few cases this will mean that children have been given a reading level they had previously completed. However, through working together and regular reading both at home and school this will be a temporary situation. Please contact your child’s class teacher if you have any concerns about your child’s reading level.
As previously mentioned, children from Year One to Year Six have completed a piece of independent writing recently, to serve as a ‘baseline’. This enables teachers to understand what needs to be covered through the writing curriculum and plan accordingly. A score or level is not assigned to this, it is purely to inform future planning and to see what progress needs to be made through the year.
Place Value has been the focus in every class as it always is at the beginning of the year. The DFE have, fortuitously, produced documents for each year group that outline which skills and knowledge a child needs to have in order to access the work for their year group.
These can be found at:
In addition, at Bolshaw, within each maths unit (normally a 3-4 week block of work on a particular strand such as place value or addition and subtraction) children begin with a baseline assessment in order for teachers to plan to meet children’s needs.
We know already that the Government still plan to assess children in Phonics in Year 1, in Year 2 later this term and across Reading, Writing and Maths in Year 2 and Year 6. For these children there may need to be adjustments to the curriculum as the year progresses. We will monitor Government announcements and developments and adjust our teaching routines accordingly. We will update you as we move through the term.
We hope this has explained some of the thinking behind our approach. As we move further into the term, I will be sharing with you more detailed School Improvement Planning and how our curriculum is progressing to support your child socially, emotionally and academically as they reconnect back into full time education and school life.
Please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us if you have any worries or concerns. Class teachers can be contacted through dojo and you can also contact any of the staff below
Miss Brown – (Headteacher) firstname.lastname@example.org
Miss Thackeray – (Deputy Headteacher) email@example.com
Mrs Vernon (SENCO) firstname.lastname@example.org
Mrs Gleaves (Learning Mentor) email@example.com