A September Like No Other

1 September 2021

By Libby Colet, Teaching and Learning Manager at Norwood:

This is a September like no other. Every child has their own Covid story and everyone re-entering the education system (including teachers and other professionals) will bring their own unique – and perfectly valid – perspective.

For the children who Norwood supports, many of whom have learning disabilities or face challenges at home, it’s hard to predict how the transition will go. Many are excited to return and will benefit from the consistency, structure and purpose that schools provide. They’ll be happy to see teachers and friends again and enjoy a return to routine. Others might struggle as they re-enter a classroom that looks quite different from what they left, a situation that’s particularly pertinent for children transitioning from primary to secondary school. We need to give children the time and space to acclimatise and provide the requisite support to make the landing as smooth as possible.

Children’s own voices need to lie at the heart of the re-integration. Adopting a person-centred approach that genuinely listens to the unique experience of each child will provide a sense of worth, validating the child’s feelings.

Many children will be feeling anxious as the school term beckons, particularly the children who we support who often have extra needs. However confident a child may seem, it’s only natural that the past 18 months’ disruption will be weighing on their minds. That’s why we need to adopt a gentle, no rush, listening approach. Whilst the media is full of stories of ‘lost learning’ and even a ‘lost generation’, we’re keen to emphasise the gains that children have made: in terms of resilience, adaptability and working in tandem with other members of their family.

Here at Norwood, we’ve got a free advice line that families can call at any point to get support on specific academic questions from our multi-disciplinary team, including specialist teachers, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists etc. We also have advice surgeries where parents or carers can come in for a short consultation with our specialists, who will provide immediate support for families regarding a child’s educational needs and progress. The best way to ease this complicated transition that we’re faced with, is adopting a joined-up approach, whereby there are frequent and open communication channels between professionals, parents and the child themselves.

For parents and teachers alike, it’s vital that we support children to be emotionally ready for learning. More than ever before, we need to assert the value of independence, rather than simple task completion, and help children to progress by offering high quality, thoughtful feedback on learning.

Whilst Norwood supports children with particularly complex challenges, I’m sure that all children will benefit from a little extra care, attention and a listening ear as they step into the unknown this September.

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