uk back to school featuring a picture of lucy baker

UK Return to school

As a mother of three, aged 10, 8 and 2, I am ecstatic that two of my kids are returning to full-time school on 8th March 2021. They head back to Y6 and Y3 and my god they need it. They need routine, peers and other adults way more than they need to be at home with my husband and I every minute of every day! Children learn best from other people – other adults and their friends – and I believe that limited interaction of this kind is highly detrimental to children’s development. Remember how our children used to go to other people’s houses for tea, a ‘play-date’, to stay the night or for a party? – this kind of stuff is really important because children need to see what other people’s lives look like, that’s how they form opinions and learn about life, if they don’t have any other ‘in real life’ experiences, how can they form their personality and personal perspective?

I feel fortunate that my son, 2, goes to nursery twice a week. He comes home grubby, tired and full of toddler-chat about his day. He interacts with adults and other snotty-nosed kids all day long, works things out with others, sits around a table and eats with his nursery buddies (unlike home where he chucks it all over the place) and he is continuing to learn. This, to me, is essential. Nursery comes at a cost though, and it hasn’t been possible for all. We started nursery because we are both working from home and trying to work with the house full of children saying “Muuuum” 400 times a day is 100% impossible.

In all seriousness, I can see my son developing all the time and it is utterly magical. I haven’t seen that same growth in my girls and I feel a bit sad about that.

Over the course of the next few months, my hope for the girls is that they feel like they are part of their school again, that they belong somewhere hopeful and inspiring. I want them to feel motivated, valued and that they have purpose. I have to say for the last few months, home learning has been a tremendous battle here at Baker HQ, despite the loan of two laptops from their school. With tech at their fingertips, it has been an almighty struggle, here’s why:

Tech issues – on a daily basis the work disappeared, the tickboxes didn’t tick, the videos wouldn’t play.

Motivation is low – without a figure of authority (a teacher!) talking and engaging with my children in the classroom, they haven’t felt motivated.

We are working parents – both my husband and I have dashing off to take a call or tapping away at our keyboards, and neither has been helpful to them or helpful to us.

It’s too easy to say “this is boring!” – and although I loath that sentence in ‘normal times’ they were just be right.

They want to have a laugh – they get silly, we get annoyed, which is highly unfair – but we were trying to work and parent at the same time!

We are all sick of the sight of each other – nuff said

The table they’ve been trying to work from is right near the kitchen – “nuff said

This is not a moan about their school or about the work set. The school have been supportive and the work is thorough, but it just hasn’t worked here. Knowing that it hasn’t worked has made me swing from from feeling crap to accepting we have tried our best, to feeling crap again.

I reached out to Sarah, a primary school teacher from London, here’s what said when I asked her how she feels as a teacher about the school return.

My name’s Sarah and I’m a teacher.  

That start makes me sound like I’m in therapy, doesn’t it? To be honest, after the past year, most teachers do need therapy (or a job as a children’s TV presenter after all the videos and live sessions we’ve done!). It has certainly been the toughest year of my 17 years in the profession. 

Whilst I could sit here and list all the reasons it’s been tough, I thought I would try and look for the positives…So many good things have come out of this experience. For one, teachers have finally been seen for the hardworking, dedicated people they are. The relationship between parents and teachers has strengthened no end and that well-known phrase of ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ has never been so true. Teaching and learning don’t just happen in school hours and it’s certainly not all about the academic subjects. There is so much more to education than Maths and English and I have certainly learnt to teach more creatively and work to build on children’s self-esteem and emotional intelligence in this time of ‘home learning’. Not to mention my technology skills which have improved greatly! 

I cannot wait to see my class on Monday. It’s just a shame that they’ll not be able to see my reassuring smile when they line up first thing. But we won’t be wearing the masks forever and if the kids have taught me one thing this past year, it’s that they are a truly resilient bunch and nothing phases them. I am sure for every parent tentatively preparing to jump for joy when they drop their kid off at the school gates on Monday, there will be another parent who is incredibly anxious about letting their child out into the big, bad world. We know you are anxious, but we will take such good care of your children, so please don’t worry. 

And no, I haven’t had the vaccine yet…like most teachers, I’m still waiting patiently. 

Sarah Tebbs (Teacher and fellow geriatric mum) 

Sarah talking about resilience makes me think how resilient she’s been too. In fact all teachers and caregivers have been, and dare I say it, us parents, too!

Monday 8th March is just 2 days away. I’ve dragged the uniform out from its dark hiding place, dusted off the school shoes which sadly don’t fit and bought some new ones, ordered more name labels and plastic water bottles than we will ever need and I think we are nearly ready. Oh but wait. Practically, we might be ready, but what about mentally?

As a parent, I am fine about them going back. I am not worried about Covid-19 and I know the school have put decent measures in place to do the best they can. What I am worried about is one of my daughters who refuses to even talk about the return to school with 2 days to go. Every day, I been gently reminding her that school is on Monday and that we are getting ready for the return blah blah blah, but she just screams and runs off. She does not want to go! She’s a home-bird, a happy child pottering about and finding things to do, she is independent and she is stubborn. It makes me wonder how many other children feel like this? As her mother, I know going back to school is just what she needs, but try telling her that. She is popular and does well in the classroom but if I am completely honest, I think she’s forgotten so much about what school is like and has chosen to remove herself from the fact it is a thing. And why wouldn’t you do that given the choice? She is only 8.

My other daughter is in Y6, she is gregarious and she loves people. I know she is going to be fine and actually she is really happy about going back, apart from saying all along she has got to wear the “horrible school uniform”. For her, lockdown has been hard – she has ADHD and kids with ADHD do not do well in confinement. Her natural need to be busy and stimulated was taken away from her overnight and whilst we’ve been trying to occupy her time at home, it is just not the same. It is not the same as leaving the house on your own, calling for your friend, giggling and being silly on your way up to school, feeling independent, taking your phone with you in your school bag, being with 30 other people every school day, having the routine of break and lunchtime, running around the field in P.E, having your familiar packed lunch at the same time every day. It is not the same as leaving school, going to the park with your mates after school and coming home starving hungry. It is not the same.

As I finish writing this on a chilly Saturday 6th March in Kent, my eldest just came to me and said. “Mum, can I try my school uniform on?”. She came back in to me and proudly paraded around the room in her neat trousers and buttoned up cardigan. She was smiling. I was smiling too. I could feel that resilience that Sarah spoke of oozing out of her and my heart flooded with pride. Now I just need to get my other daughter to feel the same way.

Good Luck everyone. Here’s to the resilient kids of today. They rock!

How are you / your kids feeling about the return to school?

Lucy Baker is founder of geriatricmum.co.uk and the Facebook group We are Geriatric Mums. Lucy is a mother of 3 and had her last baby at 43.

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