One of the spaces that kids love in the museum is our Victorian classroom, and the chance to dress up and play at both teachers and schoolchildren. It’s hard not to think about this in the context of the lockdown lens, after all the schools being closed was a bit of a forerunner for what was to come. On 18th March 2020 the Government announced that all schools would close to pupils on the Friday of that week, except for the children of key workers. Of course the following week, we were all locked-down, but it was initially a puzzle as to how families with working parents would manage… and interestingly, advice was not to send your kids to the grandparents, as they were in the most vulnerable category.
What was it like?
It’s hard to generalise, but it was a daunting prospect for many parents/carers in those early days. The thought of having to recreate an entire school day. Six hours of education, across multiple disciplines. We all had things in school that we liked doing, and others that we definitely did not (and chose to forget). The BBC provided an interesting analysis of the top ‘google trends’ by subject (and also a BBC education solution). The nation searched for things like, ‘what is an adverb?’, ‘what is the mean?’ and ‘when does photosynthesis occur?’ There were plenty of ‘celebrities’ that offered to occupy the children on the screens. Joe Wickes could start every school day with his PE. Carol Vordeman offered her maths club for free, for a while. Steve Backshall covered geography. You could go wild with Chris Packham. Oti Mabuse could teach dance. And there was free storytime with Audible. There were no shortages of diversions, but it seemed that what most children wanted was their parent’s/carer’s support and guidance. This was hugely challenging to those who were working from home. It’s easy to understand the Children’s Commissioner’s assessment that most young children spent 1-2 hours on school work a day (2-3 hours for older children). It was more helpful when the educators confirmed that the reality is (was) that parents/carers weren’t really home-schooling their children – they were managing their wellbeing in a global pandemic. Children missed school – the routines, the learning and their friends. In this regard, Young Minds has some good advice on the transitions in the pandemic, including returning to school.
Older children had their own challenges. Early on in lockdown, the Government announced that the GCSE, AS and A level exams would be cancelled for 2020, and a calculated grade provided. Results for these will be out in the ‘normal’ timeframe (in August) and it remains to be seen how this will play out.
If the nation was subject to a school report on their performance of home-schooling, it might look something like this:
Shown a surprising range of skills and adaptations during lockdown, with a strong ability to multitask. Needs to work on consistency to sustain the initial strong start.
Performs well under a crisis.
Resourceful and adaptable, often heard saying, ‘every day’s a school day’.
Early indications of a good ability to multitask.
Lacked concentration at times, particularly when the sun shone.
Needs to focus on the task at hand before starting something else.
Showed up most days – laudable.
Overall grade: B+
We are looking forward to welcoming you back to the Victorian classroom, hopefully in August when the museum opens. Maybe going forwards the layout of the desks won’t look so strange. Classes are going to be moving away from team-teaching into units of isolation whilst this virus plays havoc with our lives. Let’s just hope there isn’t a return to Victorian teaching methods!
Citizen Curator Volunteer.