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PRINCIPAL THOUGHTS | Parents feel overwhelmed, stressed, exhausted & burnt out

Digital Column | Alastair Beacom | Principal | Dunclug Primary School | Ballymena

1st July...

“Many parents felt overwhelmed, very stressed, exhausted, burnt out by the whole experience”

So it's the first day of the summer holidays... I have decided to go into work to finish up some paperwork (I'm a bit sad like that) and before I start work I have a quick look through BBC news. These are the words that jump out at me, the words of the report from Stranmillis University College, as Dr Noel Purdy reports the findings from a survey of over 2000 parents and carers to Stormont's Education Committee.

Overwhelmed. Stressed. Exhausted. Burnt out.

Yes, I know I have spoken to many parents this term who can identify with every single one of those words. In truth, I have spoken to many teachers and school leaders who have said those words too. Crucially, let us not forget the most important people in all of this - the pupils - there is no doubt that they are ready for their summer break too.

Perhaps not all pupils are tired, I know I have spoken to many parents concerned that their child has not done nearly enough work, this too brings stress to the household.

In fact The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) previously said a significant number of pupils had not taken part in remote learning, with Dr Purdy's report highlighting this may be due to a number of factors, perhaps lack of internet connectivity (especially in rural areas), families having to share devices and some pupils having to try to complete work on their mobile phones. Not to mention key workers and parents who were working from home and the difficulties they face trying to juggle this as well as homeschooling their children.

For the parents, I am not a parent, but what I can say as a teacher and principal, is well done to every parent and carer for making it through summer term during the worst pandemic that the world has seen in over a century! Of course the pandemic is not over yet, but summer term has ended and now is the time to relax! In years to come your children will tell people (perhaps their children and grandchildren) about their memories of lockdown 2020. The 'unofficial' learning will continue throughout the summer as it has done all lockdown.

The learning that children will gain from play is invaluable and all the social and emotional benefits of play over the summer cannot be stressed enough. Children will continue to watch us adults and how we cope with daily life, how we react to things and how we as a society handle this exit from lockdown. That is where the real learning will be. As Oscar Wilde said, anything that is worth learning cannot be taught.

In September (or late August!), schools will do what they do best and nurture children and help them cope with the transition back to full time education. They will not do this alone, as that relationship between school and home - teacher and parent will be more important than ever. Work will get caught up, learning revisited and friendships rekindled.

Teachers too will come back reenergised and rejuvenated. They might not feel that way now but ask them again in six weeks.

Olympic rower Steve Redgrave famously declared after winning his fourth Olympic gold, at Atlanta in 1996: “If anyone sees me go near a boat, you’ve got my permission to shoot me!” Four years later, there he was back at the 2000 Olympics claiming a record breaking fifth gold medal. Teachers too will need time to switch off, like Steve Redgrave, before coming back in August revitalised at a time when their expertise, passion and patience will be needed more than ever.

There is no doubt 'lockdown 2020' has had it's huge challenges and yes parents, pupils and teachers up and down the country are Overwhelmed. Stressed. Exhausted. Burnt out.

However this too will pass and as J.R.R Tolkien famously wrote 'Darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer.'

One of the heroes of lockdown, Captain Tom Moore (now Sir Tom!), had the right idea when he said 'tomorrow will be a good day.' As for today - now is the time for us all to rest.

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