A Recovery Curriculum at Watergate
Whether our pupils are at home or in school, and as we look forward towards welcoming everyone back into school, we are acutely aware of how important it is to recognise and respond proactively to the events and experiences of the past months – and those we continue to have. Life is very different now from the last day of school back in March 2020.
During this pandemic and whilst school has been closed to the majority of children, our pupils will have had a wide range of experiences, feelings and emotions including, but by no means exclusive to:
- Loss of routine and structure
- Loss of freedom
- Anxiety – not just those of the child themselves, but those of adults around the child
- Sleep difficulties – many parents have spoken of the changes in sleep patterns and reduced hours of sleep whilst children have not been at school
- Changes in home life and family life, including illness and/or bereavement
- Changes to the way in which we interact and communicate with each other (e.g. face coverings, lack of touch and social distancing)
It is also important to recognise and acknowledge that whilst pupils have been at home, many families have been working really hard to help their child(ren) to make progress and to continue their learning. As such, our planning takes into consideration:
- What progress have children made at home?
- How did they learn and make this progress?
- What are families feeding back to us about their child’s Individual Education Plans (IEPs), Personalised Home Learning Plans (PHLPs) and Home Learning Challenges?
- What can we learn from the learning and progress made by children at home, which can be used to their advantage at school?
What have we done and what is the ongoing plan for Watergate?
Many schools are having to significantly adapt their curricula or change it entirely in order to create a recovery curriculum for their pupils.
At Watergate we already hold the key aspects of a recovery curriculum in our existing curriculum (My Wellbeing, My Communication and Interaction, My Independence to name just a few!) and we are highly experienced in planning to include these elements in our everyday teaching and learning.
By keeping the following at the forefront of our planning, we are confident that we will continue to meet the holistic needs of each pupil at this most exceptional of times and that we can give them the best possible opportunities to address and remedy some of the impact of school closure and the pandemic.
What did we think about back in September 2020?
Before pupils returned to school after the first lockdown ended in September 2020, we came together as a school community to consider and suggest answers to the following questions:
- What must the key aspects be of a recovery curriculum at Watergate?
- How do we make sure that these key aspects are explicitly planned for during lessons and throughout the school day?
- How can we use our termly topics as a theme for the recovery curriculum through our planning – can we always/should we always link to the termly topic?
- What does our daily timetable and planning look like when we take the key aspects of a recovery curriculum into account?Is there anything we need to think about as a whole school to support our pupils above and beyond what we usually offer?
Once responses to these questions had been gathered and discussed, the key aspects of a recovery curriculum at Watergate were formed.
Key aspects of a recovery curriculum at Watergate:
Personalised curriculum – IEPs already sit at the heart of our child-centred curriculum. Teachers, supported by middle and senior leaders and in collaboration with the multi-disciplinary teams (e.g.; Speech and Language Therapy, Physiotherapy, Special Needs Nursing Team) will make sure that these reflect the current priorities for pupils by reviewing these over as pupils return to school.
Individual Relational Support Plans – it is vital that we are all aware that every interaction we have with a pupil can influence their emotional regulation and their ability to engage in learning. It is more important than ever that we have insightful understanding of pupils so that we are able to achieve the right balance of challenge and can work collaboratively and consistently to support their emotional regulation.
Building relationships – these may be new relationships with new class teams and peers or the rebuilding of relationships. We are mindful that overnight, many of our pupils went from seeing us almost everyday to not returning for long periods of time. Children may also have experienced or may now experience separation and/or attachment difficulties after being at home for so many months.
Identity – who am I? How do I fit into this class/wider school community? We will continue to make sure each pupil is able to develop a sense of self and feel part of the school community. This already forms an important aspect of our curriculum.
Re-engagement – some children may not have had the challenge of engaging with adult led or a wider variety of activities for months. We recognise this and will support pupils to re-engage with us, the learning environment and with learning opportunities. This will be a very individual process and will happen over a period of time as appropriate to each pupil.
Linked with re-engagement is our awareness of and sensitivity to how overwhelming a classroom or school environment may be for children who have been out of school for extended periods of time.
Building confidence and security – we know our pupils are happy and secure when they feel confident to explore and test boundaries which all leads to increased learning.
Building stamina, focus and attention. The school day may prove to be quite tiring and even exhausting for children returning to school. Learning opportunities and the school day will be carefully considered and planned for so that the stamina, focus and attention capacity of pupils is gradually and appropriately increased.
SPACE AND TIME – there is no rush! The most important thing we can do for our pupils now and to support their future learning and wellbeing is to give priority to meeting the needs above which requires space and time.
What have we learnt so far?
When pupils returned to school at the end of the first lockdown in September 2020, we were able to put our recovery curriculum into action and we continue to do so for pupils during the second period of lockdown. This has been an opportunity to reflect on the aspects of our recovery curriculum which work well and where there may be other issues to consider;
- We can see that when we had smaller numbers of children in school during lockdown, pupils benefited from and responded well to quieter learning environments. Although we already had an emphasis on small group and individual learning, this has reminded us of the need to use our additional spaces around the school to enable small group learning throughout the school day.
- We have been reminded, through remote learning and pupils returning to school, just how important relationships are for learning and development. Although we knew this beforehand, staff awareness of the impact of relationships between pupils-staff-peers-environment has increased.
- Smaller numbers of pupils on-site has allowed for the development of relationships of greater intensity between pupils-peers and pupils-staff with increased opportunities for interaction. As part of our recovery curriculum and beyond, we will continue to be mindful of planning to provide more opportunities for quality interactions throughout the school day.
- Space and time are vital for pupils’ wellbeing and learning. The process of developing key aspects of the recovery curriculum with pupils is highly individual and the time and space given for these things to happen will be entirely dependent upon the needs and experiences of each pupil.
- We have had to think about different ways of building relationships and keeping in touch with families. Some of these methods may continue to be used as part of a range of ways that we can create a fully inclusive school for parents and carers.
- Some pupils have made great progress in specific areas of develop (e.g.; independence skills) whilst learning at home. We recognise that this can be a great learning opportunity for us, the find out what pupils have achieved whilst not in school and how this learning took place – we can use this understanding for the benefit of pupils in school too!
- Our pupils and their families are amazing – okay, we knew this already – but, that doesn’t stop us from being astounded by the levels of resilience that we have seen from pupils and their families alike – whilst needing to stay at home and upon their return to school.
More information on Recovery Curriculum: Barry Carpenter, CBE ‘A Recovery Curriculum: Loss & Life for our children and schools post pandemic’