A Covid-19 exit strategy for primary schools by @JuniperEd

Jane McKenzie-Downes from Juniper Education looks at how primary schools are addressing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and preparing for the future

When Covid-19 closed the school gates for the majority of pupils, the immediate challenge for schools was to keep their pupils learning at home.

Now it’s time to think about what comes next.

Putting wellbeing first

Even when children return to school in greater numbers, it won’t be business as usual. Schools will be operating online-offline classrooms, taking on a wider remit for emotional support and helping pupils recover lost learning.


To read how other primary school and MAT leaders are preparing their Covid-19 exit strategy, download https://junipereducation.org/white-paper/making-the-impossible-possible/ a white paper from Juniper Education.


Many children will have felt the ripple effect of the coronavirus pandemic, even if they don’t fully understand it, so the first priority will be pupil wellbeing.

“It’s important not to make the children’s stress and anxiety any worse,” says Claire Jaques, headteacher of Acorn Academy. “They may have been hearing adults talking about things they don’t understand, but they will have picked up that those things are scary.”

Schools may need to give some of their staff more pastoral responsibility at this time, and provide safe spaces where children can talk to a trusted member of staff or discuss concerns in small groups.

“All of us will have to think on our feet, be creative, and find resources we can direct families to. We have to think long term,” says Claire Jaques.

Overcoming lost learning

It will be some time before we understand the full impact of the public health crisis on children’s education. But educational inequalities will certainly have widened, making it harder for disadvantaged pupils to catch up with lost learning.

“There are pupils who are now identifying as vulnerable who weren’t on our vulnerable list before lockdown,” says Stephen Chamberlain of the Active Learning Trust.

Schools need skilled teaching and assessment to redress the balance, and it’s not realistic to catch up on every learning objective. For example, in Year 4 multiplication is essential while Roman numerals are less so.

Teachers need to work together to decide which curriculum objectives are the most important and will be the barriers to moving on, so they can make sure these are firmly embedded.

However, it’s important to recognise the learning gains as well as the losses.

“Some children have learnt so much at home and not all of it will be tickable on an academic list,” says Claire Jaques. “We need to acknowledge these new skills and help them progress from this point.”

There could even be some positives we could take from the turmoil we’re going through. As Stephen Chamberlain says, “We should be asking, ‘can we make learning better in the future, not just as a response to the pandemic?’”

Covid-19 will continue to throw us new challenges, and the education sector is responding with innovative ways to accelerate out of the crisis. There’s never been a more important time to focus on individual pupils, rebuild children’s confidence and close the inequality gap.


To read how other primary school and MAT leaders are preparing their Covid-19 exit strategy, download https://junipereducation.org/white-paper/making-the-impossible-possible/ a white paper from Juniper Education.


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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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