Preparing for children’s return – Colin Baty in discussion
As Bedales Prep, Dunhurst, contemplates opening its doors once more, Head Colin Baty uses an article for the Attain website to contemplate what schools should do, and how, when children return.
As tempting as it may be to think about lockdown simply as time lost in which pupils could, and should, have been getting up to speed for tests and entrance exams, Colin urges schools to prioritise the wellbeing of the young people in their care. He says: “There are growing fears concerning the impact of lockdown on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people – already a grave concern in this country before the pandemic.”
Colin believes that coming back will be harder for the children than the last time, and that educators must pay attention to them, and get a sense of how they see the world and themselves. Paramount are reconnecting with their peers in tutor groups, classes and boarding houses; as well as rebuilding in-person relationships with teachers.
He says: “Every child will be in a different emotional boat, and our first and most important job is to figure out where they are and help get them back to land. With this in mind, Colin plans for staff to spend as much time outdoors with the children as possible, with a carefully-planned cross-curricular programme that hides its light in a bushel of fun. He says: “The benefits of outdoor learning are myriad and what better way to adjust back to school life than to fully embrace all the benefits which come with being in the open air.”
He concludes: “Outdoor and practical learning has a long and important history in education, as part of an emphasis on educating the ‘total being’ rather than simply imparting knowledge. This is now understood by some to be a woolly 1960s permissive educational orthodoxy, and I hope that policy makers have the good sense and humility to acknowledge that such approaches to education might just have been what was needed all along.