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Schools will focus on wellbeing as well as learning

The government’s focus on ‘catching up’ as children return to school will be as much about their emotional wellbeing as learning, the new children’s commissioner has said.

As many children returned to school today after two months in national lockdown, Dame Rachel de Souza said she had spoken to Sir Kevan Collins, who has been appointed as the government’s education recovery commissioner, in her first week in her new role last week.

“I’m pleased his focus will be as much on helping to boost children’s wellbeing and catching-up on their social experiences as it will be helping them to catch-up with their learning. Giving children opportunities to rediscover play, sport, clubs and activities and spending time with their friends should be one of the foundations of helping them to get back on track,” said Dame de Souza.

She added that catching-up will, of course include learning, and that is achievable. However, she said we should not panic about the lessons that children have missed, or about how far they may have fallen behind.

Dame de Souza also highlighted that many children have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic: adapting to home-learning, missing their friends and relatives, not being able to do so many of the things that children love to do.

Children’s lives have been disrupted and many have struggled and it is therefore important that they are able to catch-up on the essential experiences of childhood as life begins to return to normal.

Children returning to school, she added, is “a big positive”. But while most children will be pleased to return to school, there will be some who may have preferred learning from home including children who may find school a stressful experience, or who have enjoyed the control and flexibility of remote learning. Some children with Special Needs or Disabilities might find school particularly challenging and their voices should be heard.

“It has now been almost a year since the beginning of the disruption to children’s lives and some children have spent the best part of a year out school. All of us will be hoping that the end is now in sight and that there will be no more national lockdowns of schools. I’m in no doubt that the experiences of this last year will have changed our children. It’s our job to make sure it changes them for the better. They should leave this pandemic with the knowledge they were able to weather the trickiest of storms, and that we are there to help them through the next stage. That should give them great confidence for the future,” concluded Dame de Souza.

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