Ahead of primary schools partially reopening across England on Monday 1st June, Dr Anastasia Giannakopoulou from the University of Bedfordshire has shared her expert thoughts and advice on how she believes schoolchildren will react and can adapt to the changes and restrictions put in place.
Schools have been closed to pupils (except those of key workers) since mid-March due to Covid19 but next week communities will see children from three academic year groups return to the classroom – reception, year one and year six. Whilst many parents have welcomed the re-opening of classrooms, concerns have been raised around child wellbeing and mental health which some fear could be affected when returning to a very different learning environment.
'Will we have to social distance in lessons, break or lunch?'— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) May 29, 2020
Children in England will be going back to a very different type of school next week. Here's what to expecthttps://t.co/VHEoh5vGrl pic.twitter.com/6l79WaXtBn
Dr Anastasia Giannakopoulou, Lecturer in Psychology and specialist in child development and learning, believes that despite the fact that schools will most certainly be different due to COVID-19 safety measures, children are resilient and will adapt to the new environment:
“No matter how much we crave going back to the ‘old normal’, schools will not be the same as before the lockdown. They will be a more regulated, rules-based environment, with children limited in their interactions to specific groups. The good news is that children generally adapt quickly to new situations and schools will still be happy, fun places for learning – even accounting for the fact they will necessarily feel different because of the pandemic.
“Every child is an individual so their response to returning to school will be individual too. The best advice is explain to children, in age appropriate terms, why changes have to be made and be mindful of the fact that they express emotions in different ways. Providing reassurance will be key, especially for those children who internalise their emotions more and may appear to be coping well in the new school environment, but could actually need more support from their parents and teachers. Indeed, both will need to monitor and watch out more for the mental health and wellbeing of children, listen to them and provide support where necessary.
“We shouldn’t also forget that both parents and children have had very different experiences during the lockdown but no matter their situation, we are likely to see heightened anxiety in children. While some children urgently need to return to school to continue their education, others have enjoyed a strong educational experience at home and might find the return to school more challenging.”
Dr Anastasia Giannakopoulou is an academic with the School of Psychology which offers a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate courses – such as health psychology, forensic psychology and counselling psychology – accredited by the British Psychological Society.
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