Acknowledge that it’s not easy, stop feeling guilty and break your day down to take pressure off yourself and your children. Those were the words of wisdom from Teesside education experts for parents struggling to balance home-learning with their own career pressures.
Nicky Jamalizadeh, Katrina Morley and Bernadette Rizzi-Allan took part in the latest Tees Business Leaders online Q&A with host Dave Allan.
“This lockdown has been massively challenging,” said Nicky, senior standards officer at the Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academies Trust and mum to three young children.
“People feel they need to keep up standards and, as a parent, the first thing you do when you can’t keep up is feel guilty and worry about kids falling behind.
“But we must be realistic. We are in the middle of a pandemic – this is not normal circumstances and we mustn’t put too much stress on ourselves.
“Plan activities in short bursts throughout the day, have grandparents support you remotely, engage with your school and remember that you are not alone.”
Bernadette Rizzi-Allan, headteacher of St Bede’s RC Academy, a primary school in central Stockton, agreed, saying: “No one is expecting parents to be teachers.
“We are not here to judge. Do as much as you can. Create a little routine so that children know when it’s their time for home-learning and your time for home-working, but don’t try to replicate the school day.
“Many parents are contacting me as they are struggling to get the kids to sit down for two or three hours. That’s frustrating because I’d never expect that. Do as little as you can as often as you can, but don’t expect it to be a 9am to 3pm school day.”
Joining Nicky and Bernadette on Tees Business Leaders was Katrina Morley, CEO of the Tees Valley Education Trust and a finalist in the Inspiring Others category in the recent Tees Businesswomen Awards.
“Everybody in different ways is finding life tricky at the moment,” she said. “My advice is to chunk up your day. Your school may actually give you everything for that day or even for that week, but don’t try and do it in hour or two-hour blocks.
“Sitting down for that length of time isn’t good screen health. Fifteen minutes here, ten minutes there all adds up and something is better than nothing. Do your best, that’s all anyone can ask.”
When it comes to the future, our education experts are confident that children will catch up on lost learning.
“Schools are already thinking about reopening and they are formulating plans for children to catch up,” said Bernadette.
“This is not life-changing. Good schools will sort this out and make sure that the education gaps will close.
“We did it after the last lockdown and children who missed a lot of school made tremendous progress in the autumn term. Children are resilient – they will bounce back!”
Nicky added: “Teachers are trained in addressing everyone’s ability and they will do that.
“The most important thing for now is that our children feel safe and they feel loved. That’s the best foundation for any learning.”
Katrina agreed with Nicky and Bernadette, adding: “I agree that most situations are recoverable. Continuing to engage with your school is a way forward for your child, and to work with us to get education back on track when the time comes.”
While we wait for life to return to some kind of normality, it’s important that parents acknowledge the strides they’ve already made with home-learning – and with creating lasting memories which will outlive the horror of this pandemic.
“Parents have been really good,” said Bernadette. “Let’s not forget that a few months ago many people were using things like Zoom for the first time. I have been astounded by how many parents who have told me in the past they are not tech savvy but are now logging on daily and watching lessons with their children. They have done amazingly well.”
Katrina nodded: “It’s not so much about what children did throughout the pandemic, but how they felt.
“Parents have a great opportunity now to make lasting memories. Being with your children out in nature, for example, is just as valuable as home learning.”
Bernadette concluded: “Stress is contagious. If things are getting on top of you, then get out of the house and go for a walk. I guarantee that things will be ten times better when you get back.”