Over the summer, Embark Federation Trust Leader, Matt Crawford led a programme helping the schools in his Trust deal with the challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak. In a previous blog we heard about the impact of the programme on reopening schools in June. Now in the autumn term, Matt and Headteacher of Chaucer Junior School, Anna Upton, share how it has reduced parents’ concerns, created a welcoming environment for pupils and strengthened their community of schools.
Supporting our staff
One of our core beliefs at Embark is ‘that we are family’. This has been a golden thread throughout the pandemic and remains so. We have looked after our school community throughout, constantly gathering teachers’ and parents’ views and making sure systems were in place to facilitate regular contact.
In the summer term we created the Reconnection to Recovery and Resilience programme, focused on the social, emotional and mental health needs of children and staff. Before the start of the autumn term, we developed this further and created a Reconnection and Rising Strong Curriculum. We involved all schools and their staff in this so that they felt valued and enjoyed the challenge and the safety of working in their trusted teams.
Having the new curriculum in place meant that all staff felt prepared and were ready to welcome the children back to school in September. This programme has allowed us focus on relational re-connection and regulation first, slowly and sensitively establishing relationships, routines and learning habits, and really hearing the children’s voice. Thinking ahead and preparing for challenges meant we were much better prepared and prevented much anxiety in the school community.
Staff absence has remained very low at the beginning of the term which has helped with consistency for the children. They have ensured they maintain social distancing and avoid close contact where possible. Masks are used if social distancing can’t be maintained. All staff have been consulted individually about the risk assessments and 100% feel happy to be at work. If there have been any concerns additional protective measures are put in place.
Supporting our pupils and their parents
As schools remained connected with parents through lockdown, there wasn’t the need to totally rebuild these relationships in September and so parents responded well to sending their children back to school.
Happy children also lead to happy parents. Our schools put a lot of effort into making it a welcoming environment to return to – even putting up balloons and rainbow banners for the first day back! The teachers were emotionally present with smiles, positive body language and praise.
The children were – and still are – very positive and excited to be back at school, which puts parents at ease. As parents saw the speed at which their children were settling back into school, they along with their pupils, felt safe and trusted in our schools. Any anxieties they had were quickly reduced and parents started sharing the positives with each other.
We’re really pleased that attendance has been high with the majority of our schools regularly recording 97%+ each day; only 2 children across the Trust have not returned at the beginning of the year.
Parents have also appreciated the breakfast clubs and we will be starting after-school clubs in our schools soon. These will happen in year-group bubbles following each school’s risk assessment. Our schools have also accessed different breakfast programmes for our disadvantaged and vulnerable children to ensure they are fed and ready for the school day.
The programme has been at the heart of everything we have done and has helped us to prioritise the emotional well-being of our children and their families. Building on the toolkit and the resources, positive relationships have been crucial – we must all take the time to explore barriers and look for opportunities to build on school relationships.
Want to adopt the RRR programme in your school?
You can view all tools and resources here.