A Head Teacher from a school somewhere on the South coast of England recently posted a message to parents in response to the stress of more home schooling. The honesty of this particular post is commendable and has gained traction, been posted onto forums, re-shared on social media; it’s topical and the wise and reassuring voice is well delivered.

In the post, the Head bravely acknowledges that many schools don’t know what they’re doing at this time, they had no notice, no preparation time and essentially everyone needs to take a big breath and give themselves permission to do less when it comes to home schooling. Parents are encouraged to be okay with accepting that their child may not be able to complete hours of work. Instead time spent reading, playing Lego, even “free writing by keeping a diary” is great, and time to be a child with “lots of imaginative free play, the more independent the better” is encouraged.

The return from the Christmas break, so short lived, was just a day. Government closures of primary and secondary schools in England from the 5th of January to control the spread of the virus have been for many families an unwelcome and stressful return to how things were last spring.

This time round more has been done to mitigate home schooling issues. Half a million laptops pledged by Gavin Williamson Education Secretary for vulnerable children are a start on bridging the tech gap, whilst the BBC, BT and EE have joined forces to offer free online lessons in Maths and English via BBC Bitesize to help with home schooling.

Inevitably the school closures have impacted families that access Cherry Trees. Some special schools for children with disabilities have remained open. Government guidelines permit this, to ensure the provision of education for vulnerable children is met. However with reductions in how many days they are open or the numbers of hours of teaching children receive creates an equation of: less time in the classroom plus more time at home equals more need for respite breaks and support for families to cope. On days when children would typically be in school, families now need respite providers like Cherry Trees to bridge the gap with a respite breaks to keep the whole family going.

A BBC report published mid-January drew attention to parent calls for teachers at special schools to be prioritised to receive the COVID-19 vaccines given their work entails close proximity to young people when providing personal and medical care, as well as teaching. Cited as critical as frontline health workers, parents want to see teachers’ vaccinated so special schools can be fully operational. Missing school for a Cherry Trees child impacts on their academic attainment and cranks up the pressure on the home care front.

One Cherry Trees parent on the verge of tears admitted it’s been a long run for her since breaking up for Christmas. “We are just stuck, energy levels are low and the mood each day is wondering how we are going to get through several more long months. It’s a question of being patient each day. I’m aware of how difficult it is for my other son, studying for college remotely and caring for his brother at the same time.”

At Cherry Trees we consider how the pandemic has increased the recognition of the value of respite providers like ourselves and that we are seen as an essential part in every child’s development co-existing alongside schooling. So whilst the children that come to us might be missing out on being in school we can be there to encourage all those other life skills in our young people, just as the Head Teacher on the South Coast advocated. Encouraging communication, pushing for independence, exploring and having fun, something no pandemic can squash, in or outside a classroom.


Sources: BBC News online 12/01/21


and https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/disability-55583076

The Telegraph online