A glimpse into a primary school world from the inside.
Today I am looking after seven of our children with two other members of staff from inside the school gate. Why only seven children in a two form entry school? Well, I am pleased to say that the majority of parents are following government advice and unless they are key workers on the frontline fighting COVID-19, their children are safe and learning at home.
I have really enjoyed being with these children at break and lunchtime as I observed them play in a very different way to usual. Although they were wary of each other and were very conscious about keeping 2 metres apart, they still shared their games. Together, we played tennis, skipping, obstacle course races and football. It was great fun, but socially awkward when we all came back inside to start our learning. We walked across the playground with huge gaps in between our bodies, no normal back to lesson banter. There is only one girl in school today and she does feel socially isolated despite the boys doing their best to include her. Sometimes a girl just needs another girl to chat to.
When I returned to my office it made me reflect on the importance of friendships from inside the school gate. Schools are where you form those early, stay for a lifetime friends. I remember my first friendships that were formed in the early 1970s at school. Children like Paul, who would run and tease the girls in the playground and is still a great friend over 45 years later. We thought that was the purpose of school then-playing with your friends at break and lunch. I did not worry about my learning, there was no pressure to pass my phonics and get my SATs; a different world.
Now our children are experiencing a very different world. One where those physical interactions at play times can only exist via social media and using gaming platforms. This was already a reality before COVID-19 for some of our pupils, but at least coming to school daily they would greet their friends at the school gate and be provided with many opportunities to socially interact. How can children share those wide-eyed glimpses of awe and wonder when something catches them by surprise if they are not in the same room? The creativity of friends at lunchtime never ceases to amaze me. When pupils create dens, new games, dances and secret handshakes there is sheer joy in that space. A space that is empty right now and will be for a very long time.
Friendships can be virtual, I have many people that I consider to be new friends that I have met via social media or who live away from my home. But there is nothing better than getting together with a friend and having the biggest hug in the world. That is what I am missing right now-a big, fat hug.
To everyone out there living in their homes and not able to give physical hugs to their friends, just wrap your arms around yourselves, stop and imagine your favourite friends sharing that hug with you. I promise that you will feel comforted.