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Lessons from ‘The Endurance’

 

‘Take the stress out of home schooling’ reads the BBC headline, as today it launches its offer to support lockdown learning. This raises the question of whose stress we are talking about. Our parents’? Our children’s? Even our teachers’?

The reality is that all things are connected. Children will inevitably be affected by their parents’ levels of stress and anxiety in the same way as they will be by their teachers’, but I’m not convinced that sticking the children in front of the TV, albeit with educational content, is necessarily the answer. In my experience, putting children in front of a screen for hours on end is not going to end well.

With so many factors at play, getting remote learning right is a huge challenge. Understanding the challenge is a good starting point – essentially, how can we best replicate children’s experience of school, at home, balancing educational priorities with protecting the wellbeing of children and families?

At school we provide a rich curriculum, giving children opportunities to succeed in different areas. We support children in a range of ways throughout the school day and we provide equal access to the resources that support children’s learning. We’re there for our children, listen to them and respond to their needs – and they spend the day with their peers, interacting and engaging with one another. Children feel comfortable and safe with the routines of the school day, and the time away from their parents helps children gain independence. It’s a complicated construct and one that’s not easy to replicate remotely.

As our children in Year 3 find out in the topic ‘Race to the South Pole’, the person best equipped to teach us about how to successfully manage a lockdown, is polar explorer, Ernest Shackleton. Locked in by ice, Shackleton and his crew faced ten months of isolation trapped on-board ‘The Endurance’ in the frozen Weddell Sea.

Shackleton recognised the importance of play to keep spirits up and made sure the daily work routines were interjected with fun. He believed in celebration and entertainment, and he kept his crew busy, often with tasks that had little purpose beyond distracting them from thinking too much about a situation over which they had no control.

I feel the school’s approach to remote leaning has a remarkably similar philosophy to that of Shackleton. Make it fun, keep the children busy, get them outdoors as much as possible and celebrate every success. Learning at home is inevitably going to be different to the experience at school, but with a blend of short films and online lessons; independent tasks and regular catch ups; good communication and a generous helping of fun, the children will be fine – and if the children are happy, everything else falls into place.

Keeping our community connected is key. We’re all in this together, but this time around, there is an end in sight. For Shackleton is was South Georgia, for us it’s getting things back to normal at some stage after half term.

William