The importance of ‘catching up’ with compassion

With children back to school, there is the rising demand on educational practitioners to ensure that students ‘catch up’ on the ‘learning they have lost’ throughout the lockdowns. It is clear to see that suggestions of summer schools, private tuition, repeating the school year and extending school days (although perhaps constructive) are likely to put additional psychological pressure on children and young people, who are in the midst of dealing with an already disruptive year.

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With children back to school, there is the rising demand on educational practitioners to ensure that students ‘catch up’ on the ‘learning they have lost’ throughout the lockdowns. It is clear to see that suggestions of summer schools, private tuition, repeating the school year and extending school days (although perhaps constructive) are likely to put additional psychological pressure on children and young people, who are in the midst of dealing with an already disruptive year. As a result, it may be more productive to refocus our attention to supporting the wellbeing and educational needs of our children – after all, ‘children with better health and wellbeing are likely to achieve better academically’ (‘The link between pupil health and wellbeing and attainment’, Public Health England).  

According to Dr Dan O’Hare, co-chair of the British Psychological Society division of educational and child psychology, although it is entirely ‘understandable that parents and caregivers are concerned’ about children missing out on a large percentage of their formal schooling, the idea that they need to ‘catch up’ imposes the thought that they have just ‘one shot’ at their education. This notion puts children under unnecessary pressure, at a time where there is uncertainty and anxiety shrouding most aspects of our daily lives.  

Dr O’Hare also points out that although ‘some children will have had had positive lockdown experiences…we also mustn’t lose sight of the fact that the pandemic has had a huge impact on all children’s everyday lives’, particularly for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children – hence the vital importance of ‘catching up’ with compassion.  

Catching up with compassion

Take a look at these three ways to support your child’s wellbeing and educational needs:  

  1. Concentrate on your child being a ‘lifelong learner’  

Dr O’Hare stresses the importance of concentrating on ‘lifelong learning’ which celebrates ‘the progress, learning and development’ that children have achieved over the past year (alongside the fantastic efforts that parents, caregivers and teachers have made towards ‘continuing children’s education outside the school environment’). Try to remind your child of something they completed or created during their time home learning – this could be a worksheet of maths sums or a piece of artwork. You could even compile a folder of the work that your child did during the school closures, and be sure to display their proudest achievements around your home (such as on the fridge). Dr O’Hare says that if children ‘feel proud of what they have achieved…they can build upon their strengths and continue their key learning moving forward’.  

  1. Consider your child’s thoughts and feelings  

According to Dr O’Hare, it is paramount that children’s ‘thoughts and feelings are considered’. Although your child may find it difficult to open up about their emotions, try to encourage an honest conversation where they can express how they feel, and try to incorporate their ideas into any additional learning undertaken. For example, if you and your child feel that they would benefit from some additional out of school learning to meet their educational needs, then let them pursue their interests as it will keep them engaged and motivated to keep improving academically.  

  1. Allow children time to ‘catch up’ with one another  

School will provide students with the much-needed space for social interaction and re-establishing those essential bonds of friendship, whether that be through play for younger learners or quality time spent with their peer group for older learners. In ‘The Importance of Play’, David Whitebread says ‘there is very clear evidence that children’s cognitive development and emotional wellbeing are related to the quality of their play’. As a result, allowing children and young people the time to socialise, reconnect and catch up with one another, could be exactly what is needed to promote long term academic attainment.  

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