What Comes Next? Key Issues for the EYFS and Key Stage One after Lockdown
One thing that the lockdown situation has given many of us is a lot of is time. As we emerge from isolation, desperately needing haircuts but with kitchen cupboards tidier than they’ve ever been, we will have been through a major upheaval on a national and international scale.
Yet, after the whole country, including the education system, has been in lockdown we can’t expect to just start from we left off. It’s currently unclear as to whether schools will reopen fully during this academic year. If we do return before September it is important that we get our priorities right for our returning children. Whist we will undoubtedly feel under pressure to make up for lost time, perhaps adding more to the timetable to compensate, we will need to appreciate the difficulties and anxieties of the lockdown period for many children. Expecting them to do more because, we, as teachers are under pressure, could well be counter- productive. A focus on developing high levels of well- being, confidence, security and nurturing friendships will need to come first if children are going to make progress. In this way, even returning to the same class from before the lockdown period should be viewed as key school transition.
If schools don’t fully reopen until September, then we will need to be very aware of the impact that the lockdown will have had. Children will be starting Reception classes following a significantly shorter experience of Nursery. It is predictable, therefore, that many will be starting from a developmental stage below which we would usually expect. If this is the case, then we will need to think very carefully about our Reception practice. Is our classroom environment planned carefully in order to maximise the learning potential of self- chosen activities? Will children be given time to follow their own interests? Will our planning reflect the different developmental stages and learning needs of all our children? These are key questions for EYFS practice at any time but will be crucial following the lockdown.
In many ways, Year One staff could well be the ones to feel the biggest impact. Whenever schools reopen fully, children are likely to enter Year One in September following a Reception year which will have been dramatically shortened. At any usual time, Year One teachers often feel caught in terms of their practice, sandwiched between the holistic, playful experiences of the EYFS and the more formal approaches of Year 2. This year, more than any other year, the needs of the children must dictate the practice. Children who have missed a considerable part of their Reception year will not have their needs met if our education system tries to carry on regardless. Being prepared to build on effective EYFS practice will be critical.
So, what comes next is a crucial question. Close collaboration between EYFS and Key Stage One staff is always important but will be particularly crucial this year to develop balanced, developmentally appropriate practice. A key starting point will be to reflect on the learning environment. Does your Year One classroom offer some continuity with its EYFS counterpart or will it be like starting again for the young learners that use it? Within any Year One classroom there should be some resources and materials that the children are already familiar with. This familiarity will provide an element of security and self-confidence which will be so important when children return to school after such an anxious time. A meeting between EYFS and KS1 staff should identify which resources from Reception will offer more learning possibilities if continued into Year 1. The more open- ended resources such as wooden blocks or workshop materials are a good starting point for this.
Alongside this continuity, it will be important to consider the progression provided through other resources and materials that will be on offer for the children to use. Resources and materials will need to earn their place within the classroom based on the learning possibilities that they provide. Fantasy based small world figures, challenging science and investigation materials, small construction requiring more intricate movements and other developmentally appropriate provision areas will all need to be considered. This goes far beyond a learning environment being used as a carrot for finishing work early or as a golden time reward at the end of a busy week. An approach which values the learning environment as a key element of the teaching process will be far better placed to cater for the breadth of our children’s needs during this period of transition and beyond.
Confidence, self- esteem and opportunities to follow an interest are real transition issues. Issues that go way beyond the meetings for parents and the meet the teacher afternoons. Effective transition has always been about much more than a list of diary dates and events and more about the continuity and progression in practice. This year, more than ever before, our classroom practice will need to be firmly built on the needs and varied prior experiences of our learners.
So, what does come next will need careful consideration, collaboration and planning. As you start to reflect on your classroom practice for after the lockdown there are some key issues to consider.
- Is your EYFS learning environment carefully planned to encourage children to follow their own interests and fascinations?
- Is your planning flexible enough to reflect the needs of your children?
- At each transition are there clear examples of continuity as well as progression?
- Is the learning environment in Year One carefully planned to meet the needs of children who will have missed a considerable part of their Reception year?
- Reflecting on all these issues will be crucial for our practice. These are unprecedented times: we can’t assume that doing what we’ve always done will be enough.
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