By Charlotte Wheeler, Motivation Matters and Thinking Matters Consultant
It has always been the primary responsibility of schools to keep children safe. But now more than ever, schools have become these wondrous havens of normality for our young people.
Whether they have just started school aged 4, or 14 years of age in their first year of GCSEs, schools are suddenly a new found destination for young people to feel 'whole' again. They have become a home away from home; a hub of security, filled with the precious relationships of friends and teachers, with the energy and ethos of school environments coming into their own.
Headteachers and school communities have embodied the ultimate 'can-do' attitude in the face of enormous challenges - living and breathing the resilience they have been teaching for the last decade in PSHE lessons throughout the UK. The hole of absence has suddenly been filled and schools are once again establishing a new kind of normal that children pastorally so desperately need.
Schools are the destinations in which the echo of laughter and friendship can be heard resonating, with or without masks. There may be no playdates allowed, there may be no celebrations of birthdays and family events, but there is still hope and freedom within the school gates for pupils to once again feel human connection, the kindness of a friend in person and the genuine interest of a teacher without a screen. Here is a place in which they can cling onto a childhood of old and breathe deep.
The question on many teachers' minds as we draw to the end of 2020 has not just been focused on the curriculum gap, but the pastoral gap. What has each and every child in their class and form been through? How have they coped? How will this affect their ability to learn and how do they think they will cope in the future? Regardless of age, children have been flung into uncertainty to such a degree that their intrinsic motivation has been shaken through to the core. Some may have thrived, but many have found the change too much and the impact too large.
At Thinking Matters we have been supporting Heads of Schools, Departments and Form Tutors in primary and secondary schools in supporting the nature of the 'whole child', ensuring that schools are catering to the increasing pastoral needs of pupils, as much as their academic needs. We are training schools to use a quick 15 minute metacognitive tool to look at the levels of motivation of a whole class or year group, looking at whether their motivational needs are met, or unmet, at an individual level and how they can be best supported. This forms a basis for vital pastoral discussions to ensure that each and every child continues to fulfil their potential at school and beyond.
At a time of great ambiguity whether it be economic, environmental or health-related, we know that the outstanding schools across the world are giving their pupils a pastoral voice, one which builds emotional intelligence and social intelligence. This is the tool box that they need for the future. A tool box which compliments their academic capability, but inherently gives them the internal determination and self-confidence they need to weather any storm.
So there may be no playdates or parties allowed, but teachers around the world have made it their mission to re-establish the love of learning within the classroom in a solid school community, who are happy to be there. No matter who you are, you have a place at school, and in the words of children's author Patricia Hegarty, "Everybody's Welcome." We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for continuing to educate the generations of the future. You have stepped up and we appreciate each and every one of you.