I’ve always been obsessed with travelling. As a teenager I volunteered with my church group to traverse India working in villages, prisons, NGOs and hospitals. The experiences fulfilled me in ways I cannot fully explain and each year, I looked forward to doing more meaningful work and exploring my country every chance I got. As a young teacher some years later, I began organizing regular domestic travel for my students. I have such incredible memories of those early trips to forts and palaces in Southern India, ancient monuments hidden in mountains of the North and paragliding over sparkling waters in Goa. It’s quite possible that I had more fun than the kids on those journeys, but as I reflect on those experiences, I realize that they also allowed me the unique opportunity to see students developing an understanding of essential skills and it was pretty remarkable to me how a short break of eight or ten days could educate children in a way that classroom teaching never could. In fact, I am a firm believer that travel experiences can do more for character education and a sense of identity than any other experience in life can.
Nothing transforms a young life more than literacy. And, for a few young children in Years 1 and 2, the hours at home during lockdown might have been a blissful opportunity to devour books that they hadn’t previously had time to read. For many others, especially among the 380,000 UK schoolchildren who don’t own a single book, regular reading will simply have stopped when schools closed. With no daily reading record to complete, no dedicated reading time in class and no chance to share stories with others, the gains that these young children might have made in reading fluency and confidence before schools closed will have melted away.
The effects of the pandemic are felt by all, but the impact it has on the early careers market places significant pressure on the class of 2020, be that school leavers or graduates. Studies are already suggesting that young people will be worst impacted by the inevitable financial crisis; following the 2008 recession, unemployment among GCSE-level students peaked at 32.3%. With over 1 million young people expected to be unemployed in the wake of COVID-19 coupled with other coronavirus-related stresses, the anxiety all this brings upon students is also taking a toll on their mental health.
I had just finished a phone call with a parent of a Year 6 student joining our school in September. I had asked her how she and her child were feeling about the transition to high school. For twenty minutes, she had shared a lot of the typical concerns. However, there were also concerns more unique to the moment, including her child not having a ‘usual transition’.
A huge advocate of developing the prosperity and wellbeing of the communities it serves, East Kent College aims to open up a world of possibilities which could lead students into their perfect career. They’re doing this by providing high-quality education, celebrating students’ individuality, and encouraging entrepreneurial spirit. So how does the college facilitate these standards?
Let me begin by firstly explaining that this is a somewhat bizarre article to write, in the sense that it is not an ‘against all the odds’ battle to succeed in the style of Nativity (you’ve seen that film, right?) or Leicester City’s Premier League success of 2016. It’s more the story of a young student with very rare natural capabilities to shine and achieve, with or without the input of her Geography teacher.
Teachers, parents and students alike have some apprehension and comments for debate on this vital document, which may be one of the first yet most important written pieces our children will have to produce. Schools and students nowadays have access to mountains of excellent advice and guidelines. Some of which is spot on for the majority of courses a student may wish to take.