When children leave school today, gates will be closed for the foreseeable future.
With the outbreak of the coronavirus, the government has ordered the closure of schools from Monday.
Parents across the country now face educating their children at home for months.
Without preparation, it might seem like a daunting task.
Many schools are offering online classes and resources to help and companies are reducing or waiving their fees during this time.
We’ve asked some teachers and tutors for their advice to get started.
Leah, primary school teacher, KS1
Websites like Twinkl are giving out parent accounts for free and Oxford Owl have free ebooks, especially phonics ones for the younger ones.
I would just say being honest with your children but not too honest. They are getting really scared seeing their parents scared especially in regards to supermarkets and not seeing grandparents.
Speak to them and letting them know that what is happening is really rare and a first for everyone but staying at home will keep them safe because it is important to stay healthy.
For mental health and well-being there’s loads to like the Joe Wicks daily workouts.
My favourite is 100 things to indoors by spread the happiness (Shonette Bason Wood).
We’ve followed her stuff for years and it’s a lovely resource that’s accessible to all children. You don’t need to print anything out and there’s lots of lovely things to do.
Elle, secondary school teacher, KS2
My school have set up quite a lot of online platforms for children to learn. They have logins for Sumdog and Activelearn, which are online platforms where we can assign specific work for them to do at home.
White rose (the maths scheme our school use) are setting up lots of online resources, including videos to help teach children (and parents) with concepts.
Most schools have a section on their website now about the home learning. If you look at some of them, you can see what each school is doing to support.
We have also sent out home learning kits for children who may not be able to access the internet easily.
Twinkl, an online platform have offered resources free of charge for schools and parents and they include home packs for each year group.
Beth, primary school teacher, KS2
There is an amazing website called Teach Your Monster to Read. It teaches phonics with really fun games. Kids love it and don’t quite realise they’re doing phonics work.
Have a dough disco! This is a technique used in some schools to strengthen muscles in the hands and improve fine motor skills (it means writing becomes easier).
Create a simple dough with flour and water and then squidge the dough in different ways. There’s a woman on YouTube called Shonette Bason who does some great Dough Disco videos to give you ideas.
For teaching maths to any age primary school child, it can really help to use physical resources at the start. In school, we use purpose-made resources, but you can use things from home.
For example, if you’re doing column addition, use different kinds of pasta for the different digits e.g – pasta bows for ones, twists for tens, spaghetti for hundreds. Add all the bows together, if it’s over ten, swap the ten for a twist etc.
Then move onto pictorial, draw them rather than use physical objects. Then move onto the abstract, doing the sum with numbers on pen and paper.
For KS2 kids – watch Newsround! A lot of schools watch it every day and then discuss what has been going on. It’s great for developing critical thinking skills.
They’ve been doing well at explaining the Coronavirus in a very kid friendly way which can help answer any questions and help with any anxiety children are feeling.
They have a daily good news update which is full of happy things and cute animals to cheer you both up. It’s on iPlayer and updated twice a day.
Free online educational resources
Twinkl, a global educational publisher, is providing free access to all its teaching and learning materials to support teachers, parents and carers.
Cypher, which teaches coding to children in schools and during holidays, has launched live online camps to keep children engaged and learning from home
Perlego has also opened up its library of 300,000 educational books free of charge to students until the end of the academic year.
Audible Stories is offering free audiobooks for kids during school closures.
BBC History for Kids provides information and lessons on lots of world events.
Quizlet provides learning tools and flashcards to make subjects more fun.
Seneca provides revision guides for a range of subjects from KS2 right up to A Level.
White Rose provides free resources for teaching maths at all levels.
Emmatheteachie – GCSE science
Mr Bruff – English
Physics Online – GCSE and A Level Physics
Stacey Reay – English
Primrose Kitten – Science and Maths
Judith, secondary school teacher
My advice would be to set up some kind of routine – cover the core subjects in the morning (Maths/English/Science) and set a reasonable target such as one task a day in these subjects. They are skill focused so lots of practice is needed.
Teachers may set goals for each day/week, so it might be useful to add those into a diary or schedule so learning outcomes can be achieved.
Try to break the mindset of ‘you need this for your exams’ because exams are not the point of learning and kids will be a little disenchanted with this as their exams have been snatched from them.
Have a break time, make snacks – I saw one mum had posted a receipt to the fridge and her children had an allocated snack budget (practical numeracy!) so the fridge operated like a tuck shop. Great if you can do it, but mainly make sure they eat something other than a chocolate bar and a tin of energy drink.
Use the afternoon for geography, history etc – subjects with facts to learn.
Practical subjects are more difficult, but these could be set as challenges after lunch.
HE – make dinner, or part of it. PE – a body coach work out. Technology – maybe fix something/hang a picture (depending on how handy/responsible your children are!) Don’t let ‘school’ stretch beyond normal school hours (or whichever hours you give it depending on your family’s needs), short bursts of focused, productive learning are best.
This time of isolation could be a time for your children to find new joy in learning, skill building and discovery.
They might find it stressful or difficult to motivate but staying in touch with helpful classmates (and you with their parents) would be useful. Monitor them online, check who they’re chatting and what they are viewing.
Talk to them about what they’re learning and let them teach you!
Avoid negativity around their home school time, they will take on whatever attitude you show.
Quiz them when you can or, better still, let them teach you about their subjects.
Finally, don’t underestimate them. We give your children huge amounts of responsibility every day; I teach in a junior high where our head boy/girl and prefects are 14, they can manage a public speaking event, they can plan a performance, collect food for the homeless, take care of their own wellbeing and care for others, they can analyse Shakespeare and do complex equations, they can score tries and coach fitness sessions. Don’t take all responsibility from them.
Let them see that you trust them to make good choices and take responsible actions, particularly with their learning, because your children are wonderful, intelligent people who deserve to thrive in education, isolated or not.
Finola Wilson, a former teacher and director of Impact School Improvement
Take some time to adjust – our new reality is a lot to process for everyone. Don’t try and become an all-singing-all-dancing home educator overnight, you will buckle under the additional stress.
Take some time to get your home situation sorted. Do the shopping, check -n with friends and family, take a moment. If you have space think about creating a compact workspace for you and your children. Try out the various options, how do they work?
Support your children to process the change – they will be feeling it too. The best way for you all to process what is going on is to talk about it. Chat about what they think might happen. Listen to their worries and reassure them where you can.
Set a routine – it’s important that you reassure your children with the certainty of a routine and schedule. It is what they are used to at school.
Setting time boundaries for them home learning, even if they complain, will in fact be supporting their adjustment. Have a look at the suggested timetables below.
Use the information your school will be sending you – there are so many resources for home learning being shared at the moment. Your teachers will be making suggestions about where to start, some will be setting work.
Follow their advice and work together with your child if they need you to. For younger children, sharing a book together is a brilliant thing to do.
Be kind to each other and yourself – Nobody expects you or your child to adjust quickly. Teaching your own children is difficult.
The most important thing to do is to encourage your child to want to learn. Make sure you know what information teachers are sharing over the coming days and weeks and discuss it with your child. Remember this is a temporary situation.
Nicola Anderson, Head of Customer Support at MyTutor
Set up a desk in a quiet corner of the house where your child can keep their laptop, textbooks and notes – they’ll find it much easier to focus and the rest of the family can continue life as normal.
Teens spend a lot of time on apps speaking with their friends anyway – and isolation will only increase their desire to communicate socially.
While some communication will be positive for their mental health, the opposite is true when social media fuels feelings of isolation and anxiety.
You’ll need to set some ground rules for how phones are used during the day, and keep an eye on your child’s mood.
Without the structure of the school day, and without the engagement of peers, motivation and energy can take a dive. Help your child set up a timetable that’ll work for them and covers the subjects they need.
Divide up periods of study with active breaks. Make sure your child moves, goes outside, eats meals at the appropriate times and has offline conversations.
You’re likely to run into situations where your child doesn’t understand some of their course content and you’re unable to help. In these situations, having some resources ready is wise.
Look up the specifications for the subjects your child is studying from the relevant exam boards and bookmark any online resources that can help you out. Save My Exams and S-cool are two handy sites.
Self-study is an incredibly hard skill to master and secondary school pupils may struggle without someone actively explaining concepts to them. It’s worth finding an online tutor who can help your child fill in any gaps in their knowledge.
Online lessons are like having a face-to-face skype call with a tutor but with an interactive whiteboard on the screen too so students can upload documents and make notes.
A tutor can keep students on track with the syllabus and give them a much-needed boost of confidence in what is a confusing and challenging time.
If you have to homeschool your child, don’t panic. We’re more set-up than ever before to manage a situation like this. Remember, lots of parents (about 50,000!) choose to homeschool their kids regardless of coronavirus.
What is important is to look out for signs that your child isn’t coping mentally with a home set-up. Despondency and withdrawal or anger and higher-than-usual levels of irritability can all point to stress.
There are lots of great services you can call on for support such as Kooth and YoungMinds.
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