Behaviour in Primary School after lockdown
Updated: May 25, 2021
All behaviour-related issues in early years and primary schools
Behaviour in schools, now we are going back
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None of us have experienced an unplanned school closure that we are about to emerge from. We know that the summer break can result in some children going academically backwards (by up to half a term), and both routines and behaviours can deteriorate. Schools have been closed (for most children) for 10 weeks, so what can we expect, and more importantly, what can we do to ensure learning and behaviour are not affected more than necessary?
Of course at the time of writing you are dealing with a planned phased re-entry of classes and numbers; changes in school structure (one-way corridors etc) and staggered play, staff protection and a lot of hand washing. These notes will not address these issues, but what you can expect from returning children.
he majority of children are likely to walk back into school and pick up where they left off. The more of these children you have, the more settled your school (and in turn classrooms), will be.
While some people have already predicted chaos, most schools will see many of the behaviour issues they usually see in the first weeks of September, but more so, and in a small minority of children significantly more!
The difference between 6 weeks of summer, and 10 weeks of lockdown is as much about what could not be done, as what was done.
For some children, school habits will have been lost, but the replacement routines and habits will have had that much more time to become entrenched. Of course, the more materials that went home and parents did with their children, the more basic learning habits have continued to be reinforced.
For some children the summer would usually be spent outside, being active, in sharp contrast, the lockdown, by definition, too often would have involved indoor activity, and much less movement.
As a result, we can anticipate, for some children, the following issues to come into play:
1. Increased screen use. There has been a strong push towards occupying children with screens (anything from school-based learning; creativity; gaming or just to keep occupied, or distracted), and for some, this will have had an impact on their focus, and concentration.
2. Heightened emotions. For some children who were indoors a lot more than usual, and where family tensions and high emotions were already an issue, these children will return more wired and nearer their tipping points.
3. Lacking exercise. For the more active children, especially if housing and lack of space are issues, they may well return to school with far too much-unused energy.
4. Restricted social contact. For children, who have had limited play with other children, talking, playing and enjoying themselves may well be a higher priority than learning, when they first return to school.
5. The usual issues seen as children return from Summer, such as less sleep, having to get up earlier, and a structured learning focus, are likely to be even more of an issue, for some children.
So, what to do? I would strongly recommend the following to restrict the impact of the school closure, and to speed up a quick return to active learning:
1. In the first 2-3 weeks for teachers to focus on learning routines and expectations, even more than they usually would at the start of the school year. Especially as there are likely to be additional routines (one-way corridors; social distancing; limited contact between classes especially for reception). This ‘all class’ focus will bring around some of those mildly affected by the issues above.
2. For the first 2 weeks, consider making breaks a little longer, so that the classroom learning focus can be maintained. If this is adopted, transitions from playground to classroom will have to be a stronger focus than usual. Benefits will be that children can transition easier and work off excess energy. However, if this goes on for longer than 2 weeks it will change the routine and the expectation, which would be counter-productive.
3. Make no allowance for individuals who have had particularly difficult experiences (losing family members to the virus; in temporary housing, or in families where the strain of the lockdown is known to have been difficult). Allowances are much more likely to lower expectation, than provide a route back to learning.
4. For those children who still find the transition back to school difficult, identify and intervene as early as possible (after 1 or 2 weeks). Left any longer is only likely to extend the behaviour difficulties and their impact on the individual and the classroom. At most, there are only 7 weeks of term left, leaving any issue longer than necessary, in the hope there will be a change, risks disruption (for the child and class), for the rest of the term, and the school habit being reinforced, and returning in September.
5. The evidence for lost learning as a result of the summer break is strong, therefore teachers may well have to spend more time recapping learning, before starting on anything new, however much they feel they want to “catch-up” as quickly as possible.