Corona Times Journal: Edition 3

Journal 3 is all about learning in lockdown and the return to school. Our journalists are twelve Members of Children’s Parliament (MCPs), aged between 8 and 14 years old. In this journal, our MCPs use pseudonyms. This edition also includes the views of our Aberdeen Imagineers who have been talking about the transition to secondary school after lockdown.

Learning and school before the lockdown

Our journalists have different views about school and learning. For some going to school before lockdown was a largely positive experience, in particular journalists loved to play and socialise with friends. Sometimes though learning can be challenging, and although support is good when it is available there may not always be enough of it. Thinking of learning before lockdown the journalists begin to identify some of the things that might need to change on their return to school.

Positive things about learning during lockdown

Learning has been quite different during the weeks of lockdown. Some of this learning at home has been positive, as these journalists describe. The most positive learning experiences are based on being able to schedule or structure one’s own learning, to have choice about what topics to learn about, that one-to-one support from someone at home means that it is possible to improve in some areas that might have been difficult at school, there is a strong sense for some journalists that learning at home is less stressful.

Things we do not like about learning in lockdown

Journalists also describe what they have not liked, or struggled with, when it comes to learning at home. The immediate support that a teacher can give is a significant missing factor and online help from teachers can be delayed, direct support from teachers seems to be intermittent. Journalists have written about the help parents or carers can give, but while they can be supportive they might not understand enough to help, some of our journalists do not feel they are making progress with subjects.

What have you learned about you as a learner?

Journalists were asked to reflect on whether learning in lockdown had helped them learn or realise anything about themselves as learners. Again, some journalists recognise that they like having more control over their learning, or learning in less distracting environments, others now understand more about the role that their teachers play in supporting them to learn at school.

From this experience, what should teachers and schools learn about how they teach or help children learn?

Having had a period of learning at home, we asked our journalists to consider what we might learn from the experience and how this should influence what school learning is like after they return to school. For our journalists there is a need for more outdoor learning and generally to be outdoors more. Learners need to have more choice over what and how they learn, learning should be fun. There is also a need for children to get the support they need as and when they need it, from class teachers and PSAs. Journalists also see the need for schools to be places where there is calm, respect and kindness.

Feelings and practical suggestions about the return to school

Journalists have reflected on how they feel about the return to school, and also what school staff can do to help children settle back into their school and learning. Our journalists suggest that relationships are important, that children need to be able to talk about lockdown and their feelings about going back to school. The return to school needs to be both gradual and gentle. Our journalists only want to return to school buildings when it is safe to do so, they recognise some very practical problems like inadequate hand-washing facilities to busy school buses. To feel confident and safe about the return to school the journalists identify that they need information that is directed to them, it seems like no-one is explaining what is happening about the return to school. Our journalists also clarify that for every child this lockdown period has disrupted the transition from one school year to another, this means schools need to consider how to ease worries over such transitions.

The transition to secondary school

While every move from one year to another is a transition point for children, for those who are ending primary school this is a particularly challenging time. Our Corona Times journalists and other Members of Children’s Parliament (MCPs) have been talking with us about it. In this section of this Journal we draw on our work with two amazing primary schools in Aberdeen – Bramble Brae and Manor Park – who have supported our Imagining Aberdeen programme over several years. Children have said:

Our P7 children have given their ideas about how they can best be supported as they move to secondary school. The first ideas are what needs to happen now:

  • We need to celebrate the end of primary school, make sure we don’t miss out on these celebrations, help make them happen when we return to school.
  • If we can’t have real tours around the new school put a virtual tour with guides online so that we can watch it at home with our family.
  • Make some films with children talking about secondary school, they could explain important things about learning and getting around the school.
  • Teachers at secondary school could do video chats with groups of P7s before the holidays to introduce themselves and answer questions.
  • Give us some idea online now about the kind of work we will do when we move to secondary school. Help us to not worry about the work we will have to do.

Then, when children go back to school these things could happen:

  • Let us visit school and be shown around before everyone else starts and it gets very busy.
  • We need to feel like we belong when we start. A hug from a teacher, a wave or a hello on your first day will make you feel welcome.
  • Make sure that teachers are kind and don’t shout.
  • Make sure there are people who can help if you can’t find your way around.
  • Arrange a buddy for us, maybe someone we knew from our primary school.
  • Before we start normal classes give us time just to meet other kids and get to know each other.
  • Make sure our local PC is in the playground, he makes us feel safe.
  • Teachers can take time to explain things and there is enough support from them and PSAs.

There are some things that children are particularly worried about and it is important adults in the secondary school understand what these are:

  • Other children who are mean to you because it’s your first day.
  • Bullies
  • Not being able to make friends and feeling lonely.
  • People being racist towards you.
  • Someone beating you up or putting your head in the toilet.
  • Teachers who shout at you or make you feel like you’re in trouble. This won’t make you feel good.
  • Teachers who don’t help you when you’re stuck.

There are also things that our P7s are looking forward to. These include:

  • Meeting new people.
  • Getting to go for lunch outside of school with friends.
  • Having a locker so we don’t have to carry things in our bag.
  • Science – it’s fun and we don’t do much in our primary class.
  • Learning new things that we don’t learn at primary school.

Special thanks go to our colleagues at Bramble Brae and Manor Park Primary schools for their support of the Aberdeen Imagineers. And also to all our parents and carers who have helped Journalists and Imagineers stay connected to Children’s Parliament in recent times. More about our Imagining Aberdeen programme here:

Do you have something you would like our journalists to consider? Or any feedback for the children? Get in touch with the subject line The Corona Times Journal.

Date: 25th May 2020
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