Updated: Jul 16, 2020
A warm welcome to the first in a series of newsletters to support subscribers to the 'Flourishing Lives' resources. My name is Jayne Wright and I am the Founder of Flourishing Schools, a wellbeing training and consultancy company, incorporating the Flourishing Lives RSHE resources and the ever popular Chilled Children courses. I am a parent of two, wife to a primary special residential school director, an ex-teacher, a current tutor, an ex-Healthy Schools Programme Manager and an ex-Regional Adviser for PSHE. Yes, I am really passionate about the importance of PSHE in our schools as you will see in this blog/newsletter, from the website and in the quality of the resources.
How are you? No, I really mean it, how are you? It certainly is a strange time...a pandemic, some schools opening to three year groups, whilst still keeping their site open to key-worker's children from all year groups, and simultaneously setting work for those children remaining at home. The teaching unions are battling the government, the government is trying to re-open schools more widely, schools are risk assessing everything, and reading hundreds of DfE guidance papers, and through all this activity we simply can't escape the grisly truth that school staff have died of COVID-19; we have no cure or treatment and a vaccine is elusive. Now that is not the way to start a newsletter on wellbeing, or is it? If we ignore the backdrop, we ignore the trauma. It cannot simply be business as usual in schools.
I can see that the government is stuck between a rock and a hard place...opening up a flailing economy means opening up schools. Is it safe to re-open? Will it ever be safe? Will a second peak strike? I feel huge empathy with my fellow teacher colleagues, many of who are balancing their own childcare and homeschooling situations, lesson planning and looking out for 'elderly,' vulnerable relatives too. Many feel exhausted, anxious and are struggling with resilience issues too. Trying to return to being a cheerful, enthusiastic, creator of inspirational learning for their classes, in addition to feeling on top of all their other planning, and bizarre way of working at this time, is really, really challenging and will take every bit of energy that can be mustered. Such a test of resilience. Many are already battling on with a big grin, a 2m ruler clutched in one hand, and hand sanitiser in the other. I have never been more proud than I am now to say I work in education!
A restore and recover curriculum
It is in this backdrop that I decided what we need is a 'restore and recover' curriculum with an emphasis on wellbeing. Hearing that year 6 were returning, I set about pouring the years of teaching and regional PSHE Advisory experience into every session plan. My key concern is the wellbeing of children and young people who have experienced such dramatic change and loss on a scale only ever seen before in wartime. They have lost out on so many things in these last three months. We all have. We cannot simply expect all of our year 6 pupils, for instance, to skip back into their school, when they had actually believed that they had said goodbye to it already. Then expecting them to settle back into a completely different routine and sit still, at their desks, socially distanced from friends, in their bubble group. Who could have predicted this other than some Hollywood disaster movie! (I really must watch 'Contagion' when I can face it, although I sense it may feel a bit too life like right now!)
Teachers can sign up here to receive their FREE sample session resources here: www.flourishingschools.co.uk/covid-19-wellbeing
The main premise behind the curriculum is to re-integrate the pupils socially and to help them to bond with other pupils in their new 'bubble' way of working. It is also to provide them with the opportunity to speak about their experiences of 'lock-down' noting the positive and expressing what they have found tough. Creating a vocabulary for emotions and helping, through the use of mindfulness, and self-soothing techniques, to support pupils to emotionally regulate.
Mental Wellbeing - behaviours
Until much of their change and loss has been processed emotionally, fresh learning is problematic. Behaviours can take many formats...from withdrawn to the needy, to the loud and the angry. As a part-time online tutor, I have seen the full array of behaviours in the children I have tutored over the past few weeks. Not all, but some are really struggling to focus, to engage, to be bothered and to even last an hour long session completing fun, learning activities. Multiply that snapshot by the many of thousands of families out there...and don't forget that these are the families that care and are able to spend money on education. What about children from the families barely coping with life right now, emotionally, financially, who perhaps also don't value education?
Using these resources will inevitably, I am afraid to say, also allow teachers to pick up on any safeguarding issues that may have occurred. Sadly the domestic violence statistics make for grim reading and a sizeable minority of our vulnerable pupils will have faced absolute torment physically, sexually or emotionally on a daily basis. There is never an excuse for hurting children or for forcing them to witness inappropriate conversations and behaviours between family members. I shudder at the prospect of these poor souls isolated, scared and hurting for weeks on end. Yes, they will be in our classes too. Yes, you will need to identify and report on any arising issues to keep them safe. Yes, that will be hugely draining. No, you won't receive any gratitude for all the efforts but we are the safety blanket around these children. If not their teacher, who else will help? If you are in any doubt about how important your vigilance is, please watch this Ted Talk...(You will cry, and yes, you are all heroes!) Jaz Ampaw-Farr is a pretty amazing individual too!
Many parents have lost their incomes in this pandemic and there will be great stress and financial anxiety in those households, as people attempt to re-invent their careers to try to establish a way to pay their bills. Children are like emotional barometers picking up on the moods around them even if the adults feel that they are shielding them from the hardships they face.
For some, (I really hope it is the majority!) the positives of more family time, a slower pace, more cooking at home, more TV, more computer games, more time in our sun soaked gardens (very un-British like weather) or out on family walks will have nourished them emotionally. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all children could skip back to school having been shielded, respected and nourished by loving, wonderful, creative families. Even they, will however, still have a lot to adjust to upon return to the classroom. The school run routine alone, the new classroom/playground set ups and school routines, all very different to late nights, lie ins and TV/games/play/reading throughout the day.
Flourishing Lives - coverage and finances
Below are the session titles for the full summer term resource bank mainly aimed at year 6 for Summer 2020. Above are some sample slides from the resources. Every session containing a mindfulness meditation recorded clip and assessment integrated into meaningful activities and mapped against the RSHE statutory status requirements.
We should point out that we had wanted to find funding to offer this curriculum completely free to schools. Sadly this attempt was unsuccessful and we find ourselves too in a position of needing to charge to cover bills for the resource creation. It is definitely worth schools speaking to Parent Teacher Associations, or pupil councils writing to local authority mental health commissioners or charities (such as the very generous Lions & Rotary Club or local philanthropic organisations or individuals or companies etc) to see if they can support the purchase of this resource. We have tried to keep costs low at Flourishing Lives, and hope that schools will be able to find £95 for such an important curriculum offer that will improve pupils lives and help to support hugely busy teachers with a user friendly format.
You may also want to listen to an interview that I gave to 'Life on Time' in May and to view the slides that summarise the answers to the questions that I was asked: 'Should PSHE be the focus after lockdown?' I think you can guess my answer. Do listen here: https://www.flourishingschools.co.uk/covid-19-wellbeing
It is definitely very strange talking to yourself in a room!
This section of the newsletter will include:
useful articles on related topics,
key national PSHE documents,
helpful resources; and
an array of links to some fascinating reads around the topic of preparing pupils for learning post-lock-down and processing the emotions of the whole lock-down period.
The need for social bonding, therapeutic approaches and a clear focus on wellbeing and creative expression is clearly held by several organisations and experts in their field:
'A Recovery Curriculum: Loss and Life for our children and schools post pandemic,' by Barry Carpenter
'Five ways to help children heal when schools reopen,' by Mary Mered
'Supporting post-lockdown education using the 6 principles of Nurture,' by Dr Chris Moore
"A ‘recovery curriculum’ or ‘recovery conversations,’" by Mary Myatt
'Getting connected after isolation,' by Mark Goodwin
‘Schools not ready for pupils’ emotional needs’ by Emma Seith
DfE announcement on RSHE (Relationship, Sex Education and Health Education)
DfE News just in...a delay to statutory status has been announced here.
Whilst RSHE continues to be considered extremely important to deliver from Sept 2020 (Flourishing Lives are there to support you with this www.flourishingschools.co.uk/covid-19-wellbeing ), the DfE are providing schools with more time (up to the start of the summer term 2021) for issues such as parent consultation to take place properly. It is still to be considered a statutory subject in all respects.
It suggests that Mental Health and Wellbeing issues are, as stated in the newsletter, prioritised for delivery as pupils return to school post-lockdown. I hope this helps to ease the pressure on schools trying to consult with their parent communities around the issue of sex education for instance and their school policy creation.
Core PSHE education documents:
PSHE Programme of study: here
RSHE statutory status document: here
See also: Flourishing Lives Useful Links page
Coping Skills for kids
Black lives matter - resources to promote equality and reduce prejudice
'Disastershock' - some good mental health and resilience boosting activities
Anna Freud Centre - Guidance for parents supporting early years pupils back to school
CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency) Thinkuknow Online Safety
New resource launched - Send Me a Pic: https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/professionals/resources/send-me-a-pic/
Request for information:
If you have any questions, or if you see any insightful articles or useful free resources or news related to PSHE/Wellbeing, then please do share it with Flourishing Lives. We want to be as topical and relevant as humanly possible. Any resources or books or clips that schools have found helpful on relevant topics, such as 'black lives matters' or 'coping in a lockdown' then please do share with us and we will share with all our school colleagues in the next edition or on our useful links page then please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 07900908704
We look forward to supporting you on your wellbeing journey. Until the next monthly Newletter/Blog - stay safe please!
Founder of Flourishing Schools, Flourishing Lives Resources