It comes as no surprise that parents, students and lecturers alike are feeling anxious about returning to college in September. With this year’s results causing stress and anxiety across the country, our thoughts now turn to what will happen in the future. Young people are about to embark on the next stage of their educational journey having lost valuable classroom time, revision experience, independent learning practice and lack of exam awareness. Concerns about falling behind on the curriculum and coping with pressure begin to rise from worried parents.
After a six-month hiatus from the status quo of every-day-education, it’s understandable for parents to be apprehensive about their child’s motivation and morale upon starting a new term. For many, this next transition can be a huge jump, and mental health and wellbeing must be at the forefront of everybody’s minds – more so than ever before. So how can the educational community alleviate these angsts?
Communication is key
Throughout this transitional period, communication between parents and colleges is key. Across the country, letters would have been sent home outlining what has been put in place to protect both students and staff. Provisions such as staggered starts, different lunch times, allocated entrances and exits and designated facilities. Advice on school uniform and maintaining hygiene may also have been acknowledged.
When placating parent concerns, it is always best to remain calm and collected when things may feel a little fraught. Parents and lecturers must be reassured that colleges would not be reopening unless it had been considered safe to do so.
Ensure tutor-parent communication is in place to alleviate concerns from home. Increase interaction with students who had minimal engagement with at-home learning to be proactive regarding their return to the classroom. If you’re concerned about specific students’ wellbeing and mental health, send out round robins to address this with staff so they can be mindful of this come the start of term. Consider your whole college initiative if one has been set out. What has been outlined and who can you turn to for advice?
Familiarise yourself with your college’s pastoral structure: head of years, head of houses, tutors, safeguarding leads, parent liaison officer, education welfare officer and attendance officer. These are all people that students can go to if they’re feeling overwhelmed. Have these contact details to hand to pass on to parents if necessary, for additional support.
Brush up on behavioural management – don’t be afraid to reassert your expectations. The longest timeframe students and teachers are usually away from the classroom is six weeks, not six months. This will be a huge readjustment for all involved. Press the reset button and reassure students this can be a fresh start with a new lease of life and a reminder of how important education is. Remind them not to be too hard on themselves, and certainly don’t be hard on yourselves either. This is a learning curve for everybody involved and no one can be certain about what September has in store.
Although there is a lot of uncertainty right now, one thing we can be certain of is that all of the dedicated education professionals, from catering staff to lecturers, principals and pastoral leads, will be putting countless procedures in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of every student at their respective college. Not to mention, they’ll be excited to get back into a classroom because, after all, that’s why lecturers enter the profession in the first place! Another thing we can be sure of is although students may not be outwardly enthusiastic about returning to the classroom, they will most certainly be looking forward to seeing all their friends again and being part of their school community once more.
About the author
After completing a BA in Creative Writing and a Masters in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Winchester, Tammy worked as a Learning Support Assistant, with a focus on helping students develop their literacy skills. She then taught as an English teacher at an all-boys comprehensive school in Berkshire. Now she has turned her sights to a career in writing, with education at the heart of it.