Painting without brushes

There is an argument currently running that children’s absence from school is having a detrimental effect on their learning. To some extent, and for some children, this may be true – education is naturally a collaborative, shared experience with your peers and this has certainly been more difficult in lockdown.

However, if I look at the evidence that is pouring out via social media – not only from my own school but pupils from all over the country – learning seems to be flourishing. And, I would argue, it is more valuable and has greater ‘stickability’.

Guided by innate curiosity

This is undoubtedly because children are being children – exploring by themselves, questioning things and embracing new ideas. Subject matter is not being dictated. Instead, children are following their own interests, guided by an innate curiosity which is often driven out by our rigid education system. Maths is still being done, but more purposefully – measuring the growth of beans each day; weighing out ingredients for bread and cakes; counting birds in the garden; observing how the length of shadows change throughout the day – the list goes on.

A.A. Milne puts it very well:

“Christopher Robin came down from the Forest feeling all sunny and careless, and just as if twice nineteen didn’t matter a bit, and he thought that if he stood on the bridge and watched the river, he would know everything that there was to be known.”

Just because children are not sat at a desk rehearsing their times tables doesn’t mean they are not learning.

And it is not only children that have unleashed their inner creativity. You just need to look at the wealth of amazing resources that have been generated since we closed our schools.

Science seems to be particularly flourishing during lockdown.

One of the science campaigns particularly close to my heart is the Great Science Share now offering a new theme each week for children to engage in.

Another colleague – Dr Jon Chippindall – has been delivering his ‘Daily Doses’ of science, computing and engineering since March 23rd – definitely one to subscribe to:

Time to reflect

As a teacher, I have also benefited during lockdown, having had the time to reflect and look at my area of specialism in much more depth – gaining a much better understanding of what happens in the various year groups. There has been space in the day to research what’s out there – making new discoveries and contacts for the future. We have certainly had to think differently about how we ‘teach’ our pupils remotely, but this has offered the opportunity to plan more creatively without the ‘paintbrush’ of the national curriculum.

There are indeed many benefits that we should take advantage of in these troubled times. At Rode Heath, the impact on children’s understanding of technology has been positive with many of our primary pupils – certainly in KS2 – adapting to their lack of face to face communication by becoming proficient in Zooming.

I suspect that oral Literacy will have improved with more conversations in many families going on around the dinner table. Parents also have become extremely resourceful – finding learning opportunities in many seemingly normal day-to-day activities.

nation of innovators and entrepreneurs

So, when we do finally return in full capacity to schools, which we will, let’s not go back to our old ways of teaching. We are a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs who thrive on creativity and we should therefore nurture the independence, curiosity and resilience our children have developed during lockdown.

It’s time for us to think differently about how we educate our children. This means abandoning conventional methods and trying something completely new – putting aside the paintbrush and painting with a sock instead. Who knows what might happen?