That’s a wrap, the 2020/2021 academic year has come to an end for this family. What a year it has been: Draining, challenging and exhausting. I just hope the forthcoming academic year is a much easier experience for youngsters, parents, teachers and everyone working in education and childcare.
Right now, I just feel like I need the next six weeks to relax and have fun with the kids (It doesn’t help that I have a horrible ear infection and just want to lie down in a quiet room for much of the day!). I’m also hoping the next academic year is as free of COVID-19 restrictions as is safe to be.
Over the past few months, I have come to appreciate exactly how large the impact of COVID restrictions has been on my kids. I’ve never questioned the need to live with social distancing rules, but living without the demands of school and concentrating on fun activities for a few weeks will do them no harm whatsoever.
For Izzy, my youngest daughter, the imposition of lockdown from January to March and the inability to meet friends was challenging. She was much happier once she’d returned to school in March.
I also noticed she went through a developmental spurt as soon as she returned to school. I don’t mean a physical growth spurt, but socially. She’d clearly missed out by not being able to mingle with her peers and once reunited, she blossomed.
As for Helen, well it has been a rollercoaster of a year. She started secondary school and it’s been far from smooth. Not, you understand, that the teachers or school have let her down. Far from it. They have been superb and done an excellent job in tough circumstances.
Year 7 is a real milestone in any child’s life. What they need is stability to make new friends, get used to an entirely new school system and adjust to the increased independence they’re granted as they travel to and from school on their own.
This year’s intake of Year 7s finished primary school in incredibly turbulent circumstances. While things seemed a bit calmer in September, there had been no formal transition to secondary school.
They didn’t have the opportunity to join sports and activity clubs as they weren’t operating. This additional avenue to make friends and develop other interests simply wasn’t available to them.
The enforcement of bubbles meant the Year 7s haven’t had the same opportunities to mingle with older pupils. This means they haven’t learned from their older peers, peers who could have been a very positive influence.
At the start of the school year, I had a conversation with a teacher. She said the Year 7s were very immature because the first lockdown in 2020 meant they’d missed out on so much social contact. She also said they couldn’t mix with older pupils who, to use her slightly blunt language, would usually “knock the Year 7s into shape.” If they started the school year immature, have they ended it immature? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I have my suspicions there may be something in it.
As a parent it’s been an incredibly odd year. At Izzy’s school, a circular route was introduced for parents at drop off and pick-up so you walked into the playground and straight back out. The furthest I’ve been on to school premises is the school office and that’s only happened once or twice. All conversations I’ve had with Izzy’s teacher have been via Zoom.
As for contact with Helen’s school, that has been even tougher. As I said above, she was starting at a new school. We’ve had minimal contact with other parents. Simply organising a trip to the cinema with a handful of friends to mark Helen’s birthday was an epic exercise.
I didn’t know who the parents were and I had no way of contacting them. I managed to organise it in the end, but it took a phenomenal amount of effort.
The there have been the twice weekly lateral flow tests. To begin with, I administered the tests on both kids, but very quickly they learned how to do it themselves. I find it so incredibly weird that Izzy, who is just turning 9, can sit down and administer a basic medical test on herself during a global health pandemic. She’s so used to doing it and could probably do it with her eyes closed. I’m not complaining because I totally understand the logic, but I think back to my own childhood and I find it staggering this is what the world has come to.
I think that’s the thing about this past school year. Everything’s required such a lot of effort. It’s also been a very isolating experience and speaking for myself, I have, certainly towards the end of the year, found myself feeling quite concerned about the impact on my kids’ social development.
Oh and of course there’s been the constant worry about the kids getting COVID. I was very concerned back in December when the Kent variant was rampaging across the UK and both my kids had to self-isolate because their school bubbles burst. If anything, more bubbles have had to self-isolate towards the end of the summer term as the latest wave of infections has swept the country. It’s just pure luck my kids were not affected this time round.
No, this year has not been easy. If you feel the same way, I wish you the very best for these school holidays. I also wish you and your family the very best for the next academic year. May it be easier than the one that’s just come to an end, much easier.