Why lockdown homeschooling is proving tougher this time

Homeschooling in the latest coronavirus lockdown is proving tougher for many parents and children. 

Homeschooling in the latest coronavirus lockdown is proving tougher for many parents and children. - Credit: PA

The closure of schools has turned the lives of families upside down for the second time in less than a year.

And if the first lockdown was a baptism by fire for families forced unwittingly into home classrooms while juggling remote work, the second time round it is proving tougher for many parents and children. 

“The novelty has worn off” says Helena Gillespie, professor of learning and teaching in higher education at UEA.

“There is a sense of tiredness and weariness that there wasn’t last spring and that is why it's important to put family wellbeing at the heart of homeschooling.”

Practical issues such as broadband and setting up Zoom and Google Classroom, have given way to fatigue, boredom and winter weather that makes it difficult to escape the sense of being cooped up leading to concerns surrounding mental health.

Prof Gillespie said: “It makes it harder for people to go out in the gardens or to go out for a walk. It being colder and gloomier really doesn’t help.

“We already know how difficult it was last time around and now we are facing it second time around with much more knowledge of what we are getting into. 

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“Children who found it difficult last time, are finding it difficult to engage and stressful.”

Helena Gillespie, UEA professor of learning and teaching in higher education.

Helena Gillespie, UEA professor of learning and teaching in higher education. - Credit: Submitted

Parents have been left trying to balance their jobs with childcare and homeschooling until February half-term at the earliest.

Wymondham father-of-two Graham Moorhouse said: “The first lockdown was hectic and stressful, figuring out online lessons and getting all these weekly packs of schoolwork to complete while managing everything else. 

“This time we know what we’re doing but is grimmer and harder actually because its depressing and everyone is fed up.”  

Schools are closed for all pupils except children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Schools are closed for all pupils except children of key workers and vulnerable children. - Credit: PA

"I did have a couple of panicky days over Christmas because I knew what was coming and what it was like the first time, “mum-of-three Liz Humphries, from Norwich, who has two sons and a daughter, told the BBC.

"Everything we experienced the first time, I'm basically applying that again but with a bit more structure.”

Prof Gillespie, a former teacher and school governor, said this lockdown was more organised as schools were better prepared.

“Last time we were flung into this situation not knowing how long it was going to be for and with no time to prepare,” she said.  

“Because schools have all now got plans together and have the knowledge of what worked and what didn’t last time, my sense is that what schools are able to provide is probably better in most cases. 

“Most kids are on online lessons, some of the gaps in IT provision for disadvantaged children have been filled, though not all.

Most pupils have moved to remote education until February half-term at the earliest.

Most pupils have moved to remote education until February half-term at the earliest. - Credit: PA

“Children have got used to ways to cope and be organised about it. Certainly my two children have been very quick to organise doing after school Zoom calls with their friends, because I think it is really important for parents to encourage and enable their children to keep up friendships.”

However the cancellation of extra curricular activities, everything from football and netball to music lessons, even scouts and guides gatherings being online, has added to the young people's social isolation. 

“I think that is particularly tricky for them,” said Prof Gillespie. “We might think that is just football, cricket or theatre club or whatever, but actually for children that is an important part of their identity and when you take that away it does impact on children’s mental wellbeing and their sense of self.

“Parents being aware of that is really important.”

Parents are encouraged to plan the day with youngsters and allow enough breaks.

Parents are encouraged to plan the day with youngsters and allow enough breaks. - Credit: PA

She said its was important for parents and children to talk through a structured plan to balance times for school work. 

“I think from the previous experience of lockdown it's clear that it is important to know when to stop with lessons and homework, when to take a break,” she said. 

“The other thing that I would encourage people to do is to really stay in contact with their schools and teachers.

“All the teachers that I know really want to hear from their pupils. That contact with both teachers and their friends is so important to help us get through this.”

HELP FOR FAMILIES IN LOCKDOWN

Learning at home
If your child is completing all of their school-set work and looking for other activities to keep them busy at home, there’s some ideas for different age groups at norfolk.gov.uk/children-and-families

Emotional well-being and mental health
These are difficult times and we know that parents and carers and children and young people might be feeling anxious or struggling with their emotional well-being. Children and young people aged 0-25 don’t need a referral to access urgent mental health support.

  • Online counselling platform, called Kooth for 11-25-year-olds, which young people can contact directly for support. Visit kooth.com for online counselling 365 days a year.
  • You can also text ChatHealth Norfolk on 07480 635060. A health advice service for ages 11-19.
  • More support is available, as well as tips to support emotional well-being at justonenorfolk.nhs.uk/mentalhealth
  • Parents and carers that need advice about a child’s emotional health and wellbeing can text Parentline on 07520 631590.
  • First Response is a 24/7 helpline for people of all ages in Norfolk and Suffolk who need urgent mental health support. If you are experiencing something that makes you feel unsafe, distressed or worried about your mental health you can now call the helpline on 0808 196 3494.

Safety
With many more children at home and isolated from those who might normally support them, there are concerns some children who might be at risk will not be able to get the help they need. If you have concerns you should contact Norfolk County Council on 0344 800 8020 or in an emergency contact the police on 999. In a non-emergency the police can be contacted on 101.

Cyber Safety
With children and young people relying on their tech at home for learning and entertainment during lockdown, it remains vital to keep conversations about online safety going and raise awareness of reporting routes if something goes wrong. Check out these simple 15 minute activities that families can do to support their child’s online safety at home including topics such as cyber security, social media and gaming.

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