Home learning

I’ve got five school-age grandchildren and one starting school in September. Assuming that happens, that is – but anyway, he will be enrolled in school then. Dilly is a high school maths teacher and we were talking about returning to school, last week. Everyone in our family is dubious about the wisdom of sending the youngest ones in first. The systems are being trialled and it’s not really fair on them. Added to that, many village schools are fairly small and the “bubbles” of pupils and teachers that they are expected to have will be difficult to manage, if all the eligible children go in. If any of the children, parents or teachers in a bubble are ill or have symptoms of illness, everyone concerned will have to self-isolate for a fortnight or until results of tests come back, so many children and parents could be back home soon anyway.

Dilly said that some of her pupils have come on a good deal in the last few weeks and have sent in better work than they usually do at school. I asked if that was some of the quieter ones, who find classroom work with their peers distracting? On the contrary, the ones who are doing best are those who are usually the disruptive ones. Without any friends to impress, they are concentrating on their work, asking for help and appreciating that they get it.

I think that fear of looking small by admitting they don’t know something and fear of failure are factors too. I guess most of us recognise that in ourselves. Dilly says that she is working long hours and giving students as much help as she can and, of course, supporting her three with their home work. Support from schools varies a lot, I gather, even within schools from different teachers.

Weeza is doing most of the home schooling in their family, because Phil is working from home. Each child has an office setup in a separate room and she wafts from one to the other when they need her. She’s finding it hard work but I think the expectation of a routine helps and they get input from the teachers with worksheets, homework and so on. They know they’re working school hours, more or less, so they accept it as a temporary normal without grumbling, it seems. They happily told me of the arrangements, anyway, without making it sound like a dreaded experience. Gus’s primary school is due to reopen in June, though not for his year group. It’s a small school and completely unsuitable for the demands made by the government and the need for parents and staff to feel it’s a safe place. I wonder how many children will go. ‘My’ high school has been open all along for children of key workers, but only five children, of about 850, attend. Of course, if primary teachers have to go to work, their children will have to go to school. Then more secondary teachers will and then their children will be back at school. I wonder if this has occurred to anyone in government at all, that it’s going to become increasingly difficult to manage these bubbles and that support to children at home by their teachers will reduce considerably.

4 comments on “Home learning

  1. PixieMum

    Our grandson is in Reception year, there are two classes, each class is to be split in two, 15 will attend Monday and Tuesday, classrooms will be deep cleaned on Wednesday then the other 15 children will attend Thursday and Friday. It is a spacious school, with its own ‘forest’ area. It appears that one reception teacher has been more diligent in phoning and contacting parents than the other. As grandson isn’t 5 till July and thus legally does not have to attend school his parents are going with the flow. Surprisingly grandson is reluctant to practice reading books, asks for more maths and enjoys the science exercises, along with his three years old sister who also explained to us about floating and sinking. My suggestion concerning the reading was to not push ‘book’ reading (the stories are pretty dire) but encourage reading of cereal packets, shopping lists, Lego instructions anything that requires using his understanding of phonics. DS didn’t and doesn’t read fiction, but devoured the Ladybird history series which led to both his love of history and his career. Asking questions about Henry Vill has led to that poor king stuck with that name, no one had taught our 6 or 7 year old about Roman numerals.

  2. Z Post author

    Ro and Dora are getting Rufus to write and know letters. I did let them know that he’ll need lower case, even though capitals are easier. He’s still three for a few more weeks, though. Gus’s school can only manage 10 in a room at the appropriate distance, so a class of 30 will need three rooms. Schools are usually not spacious because the funding formula doesn’t allow for it. All space is counted as teaching space, even if it isn’t suitable. In Norfolk, where people are cautious by nature, I suspect a lot of parents will wait and see. It’s not that they think their children will be seriously ill but because of the self-isolating rule if anyone does become ill – or simply has any symptoms that might possibly be Coronovirus. And, once children get together, coughs and sneezes spread quickly.

  3. Blue Witch

    ” Schools are usually not spacious because the funding formula doesn’t allow for it.”

    For once (and probably only once) I wouldn’t blame this on funding formulae! Think how little space there was in old Victorian schools. Building standards (square feet per pupil etc) were set long before LMS came into being in the late 80s. But, you’re right, however they were caused, space constraints have come home to roost now.

    I think there is going to be a big conflict for many children taught ‘different’ methods for (particularly) maths and handwriting styles by their (well meaning, but uninformed about current practice) parents, when they eventually return to school.

    1. Z Post author

      The funding formula is fairly complicated – to think I used to know the whole thing off by heart. I’m rather glad I’ve managed to forget most of what I knew, which may be out of date in any case. Back when the old village school (replaced about 11 years ago) was built, over 100 pupils aged up to 11 crammed into a space that was smaller than was later used for 70. I wasn’t thinking about those days, of course. I do remember spaces being included in the usable area that were completely unsuitable for children to be taught in, both at the high school and the village school – though the latter school was so desperate for space that they converted big cupboards for one to one teaching areas.

      I remember going to my father for help with maths and he taught me a different way that finally made sense. Teaching has become so very dogmatic and prescriptive, I’d like to hope that some of the rigid rules might be relaxed for the sake of reassuring children for whom school will be a strange experience for the rest of this year, at least.


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