Holidays and Home Learning  

Jul 19, 2021

The school holidays are just around the corner, with the promise of a well-earnt rest for exhausted teachers up and down the country. It's fair to say that after the events of this year, teachers need the six-week break more than ever.  

Planning your communication with families over the summer will ensure that staff get the rest they need and that your school is prepared for the new school year in September

  

Communicating to families over the summer holidays 

The scientific projections suggest that the beginning of the school year in September is likely to coincide with high numbers of Covid cases across the country. The Health Secretary stated this week that new infections could quickly rise above 100,000 a day over the summer, more than at any point in the pandemic. With the DfE telling schools to prepare for the return of onsite testing after the summer holidays too, this puts immense pressure on teachers and school staff who are already running at full capacity.   

So, it is essential to know how you will communicate with your school community over the summer. What methods do you have in place to ensure that you can deal with last-minute changes and, crucially, that the message gets out to parents and carers? 

Supporting families in your school community  

As well as the logistical complications of returning to school during a pandemic, teachers are likely to be concerned for the welfare of the children and young people; particularly those from vulnerable families. We often think of the summer holidays as a fun, carefree time for children, but this just isn't the case for many pupils. Furthermore, the pressures (financial and otherwise) put onto families by the pandemic have exacerbated what is already a stressful time for many parents and carers. But you can help support families by: 

  • Informing them about external agencies that could provide support for them  (such as food banks, local community groups and crisis helplines) and ensure the details for these agencies are clearly displayed on your school website.
  • Providing parents and carers with a list of free summer activities/ events for families in the local area.
  • Ensuring there is a school enquiry line/email address for parents and carers, which is manned five days a week. Promote the 'hotline' to parents by email/text and social media before the summer holidays start.
  • Making sure that the vulnerable families in your school community can take advantage of the Holiday Activities and Food Programme

Holidays Activities and Food Programme 

Hopefully, you will have heard of this government scheme by now. Still, as it has only recently been finalised, it could easily have been missed.  

In summary, under this scheme, the government are making up to £220 million available to local authorities to coordinate free holiday provision, including healthy food and enriching activities. The programme will be available to children in every local authority in England. 

The aim of the programme is to make free places available to children eligible for and in receipt of free school meals for the equivalent of at least four hours a day, four days a week, six weeks a year. 

It is important to note that this scheme will replace the food vouchers/packages that were available to families receiving Free School Meals last year.

The big summer 'catch up.' 

In addition to all the above, there is tremendous pressure on schools to ensure that children and young people catch up with missed learning over the summer holidays.  

'Catching up' with what has been missed over the last 15 months is certainly easier said than done, as it is almost impossible for schools to monitor students learning over the summer. It relies on the amount of free time that families have, as well as parents’/carers' willingness and confidence to support their child's learning at home. Many families don't have the confidence to engage with curriculum-linked work at home – or the free time. Sadly, these are luxuries afforded to the minority of families during the school holidays.  

However, it's not all doom and gloom! Make sure you reassure parents that all learning is good learning. Students don't have to be sat at home practising their times tables and reading for hours each day (although, of course, this shouldn't be discouraged!). Any opportunities to explore the world and find out new information is good for children and will support their learning in the classroom.  

Play is also an essential part of a child's learning and development which is why PEN is supporting the Summer of Play campaign. Have a look at their website for lots of tips and activities that you can share with parents this summer.  

Make it easier for parents by providing them with some family home learning activities to do over the summer. These are activities that the whole family can get involved in and are much more accessible than giving students textbooks or curriculum worksheets to take home over the summer. PEN has a wealth of family home learning sheets available for members. 

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