Norfolk expert calls for summer of fun, not extra school
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A Norfolk education expert says children should be given time to "reconnect" - and hit out at the idea of longer school days and shorter summer holidays.
As the third national lockdown continues, Norfolk children have faced nearly a year of disruption to their learning.
Sir Kevan Collins, education recovery commissioner, said that children would need extra hours of learning to catch up on missed learning.
And schools standards minister Nick Gibb has suggested lengthening school days or shortening the summer holiday.
But Helena Gillespie, professor of learning and teaching in higher education at the University of East Anglia, said the focus on education alone could lead to more “unhappy” and “isolated” children.
“They won't make good educational progress until they build back a sense of self and self-confidence,” she said.
“Quite a lot of who children think they are is not built on what happens in geography or spelling, it's built in their role at a football club or when they go to drama club or play cricket, but at the moment all of that is on hold."
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She added: "I think there are two problems with the idea of lengthening school days or terms. One is that the teachers have been flat out and they need a break.
“But secondly, if you start to eat into summers and evenings, you are taking away children's opportunities to do those extra things that are so important to them.
“I’m not against children getting back to the classroom, I just think focusing only on that as a recovery plan misses what we know about children's wellbeing.”
Prof Gillespie said the £1.3bn fund to help with education recovery could be used to support local groups which provided extra-curricular activities, and for mental health charities to support children affected by the pandemic.
She said: “Locally there is a charity Map, which is based in Norwich, and it would be great to see funding going into an organisation like that so they can provide support for children.
“In Eaton there is Eaton Vale the scout centre, which is an amazing outdoor education centre, the Theatre Royal whose youth programme has been on hold, the work football clubs do within the community.
"I would just like to see all of that brought back as a priority alongside school.
“It doesn't matter what it is. I feel like kids, particularly teenagers, need to get back out there and work to rebuild self-confidence, reconnect with friends and make new friends.
“If they do, it will be a summer where they feel like they have really gained something and they will be ready to start again in September. A fresh start."