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Summer Schools – Firm Foundations for Success

Updated: Jun 14, 2020

Whilst we await the announcement from Gavin Williamson next week on the proposal of Summer Schools to help children catch up on their lost education during lockdown, I am thinking about how this could actually be successful…

There is more to education than just academics. The ‘hidden curriculum’ is a vital part of schooling. In fact it could be argued that the hidden curriculum is more important than the academics. After all, if the aim of school and education is to provide children with necessary life skills and produce a workforce capable of fulfilling the needs of the employers and businesses, then for the majority of jobs, knowing how to work out the circumference of a circle is probably not relevant, but knowing how to relate to people, follow instructions and work as a team are.

If we apply the principles of the Early Years Foundation Stage to the needs and purpose of school and education, we could successfully prepare the children for a return to education ready to learn the academics, but first we need to get the foundations right. I think, the Early Years Foundation Stage could have a very large role to play here, no matter the age of the child. The core principles of the EYFS (Development Matters, 2012) are:

· A unique child. Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self assured.

· Positive relationships. Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships.

· Enabling environments.

· Learning and development.

If summer schools adopt these core principles of making positive relationships, building children’s confidence and self esteem in stimulating, fun and enabling environments, the children will be ready to learn the academic curriculum afterwards. A fundamental part of the learning for the EYFS is based outdoors. This is easily achievable for summer schools, using public spaces such as parks, fields, community gardens, churchyards, school playgrounds etc. Being outdoors would improve mental and physical health, allow for children to socialise safely and engage in team building activities. This would enable children to successfully reintegrate with society and education.

Many youth groups, youth workers, and volunteers, as well as retired teachers could be a real asset to the summer schools. Many youth organisations have similar principles to those of the EYFS. For example, Scouting, Girlguiding, Army Cadet Force, The Woodcraft Folk, Boys Brigade, Girls Brigade (to name but a few) all have core values which centre around inclusivity and equality, developing honest, trustworthy citizens who have confidence, a strong moral compass, are tolerant, caring and respectful, are team players as well as leaders and often rooted in faith. The basic idea being to develop kind, caring and well-balanced children who are able to participate in and make positive contributions to society.

At the coal face of these organisations are fantastic skilled volunteers who are very capable of teaching children these vital skills and principles. Many of the activities offered in these organisations can be done outdoors which aids well-being. Surely, it makes sense to ask these volunteers to step forward and lead the summer schools, not in academic subjects, but the ‘hidden curriculum’ that is the foundation of education. By supporting the physical, social and emotional needs of the children and getting them reacquainted with rules and routines before fully reintegrating into school, we will be enabling our children to be successful. If we give consideration to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943, 1954), by ensuring we meet the psychological needs, we will enable the children to reach ‘self actualization’ and fulfil their academic potential.

As teachers, we are all very aware of the need for children to be able to listen and follow instructions in order to learn. Summer schools, with the help of highly trained and experienced volunteers, could facilitate the basic skills needed for academic success at school, in an inclusive, fun and engaging way, making our children ready to learn again. Once this is achieved, teachers could then focus on teaching and bridging the academic gaps that this pandemic has widened.

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