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Education Must Focus on Wellbeing

publication date: Feb 23, 2021
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author/source: Prof Helena Gillespie

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As the government announces the road plan out of lockdown, former teacher Prof Helena Gillespie, from UEA’s School of Education and Lifelong Learning, says that education recovery should focus on children’s wellbeing, not on "catching up":

Nearly a full year of disruption of schooling will have had a serious effect on children’s education.

Senior government figures have proposed various ways to help children catch up – including extra hours and reduced summer holidays. But it would be a mistake to focus on pushing children through parts of the syllabus they have missed.

Educational recovery should focus on wellbeing just as much as learning, and should recognise the efforts that pupils have put in over the past year.

The best approach would be to focus on building back skills and knowledge gaps without pressure from arbitrary expectations of where pupils ought to be.

Teachers know their pupils best. Any education plan should put power and resources into the hands of these skilled and committed frontline workers.

Pupils’ mental wellbeing must be considered as a twin priority with educational achievement - with funding for enhanced mental health support - because the latter cannot be sustained without the former.

A recovery programme must also include opportunities to rebuild social connections and personal resilience. This could be through sport, outdoor activities and performing and creative arts as well as classroom-based learning.

Finally, some children and young people have been able to build new skills over the past year, including digital abilities, self-regulation and independence.

In the years to come, schools and education bodies can learn from the experience of the pandemic, evaluating what can be improved and hard-wiring this gain in digital skills into teaching and learning. But for now, we must focus on embedding a holistic recovery plan throughout our educational system.