East Lothian Council’s Educational Psychology and Early Years services have created a range specialist resources to support education and early years staff in helping children and young people recover and reconnect when school buildings reopen.
The services have consulted extensively with staff in the county to develop a ‘nurture’ approach to COVID-19 recovery that will focus on emotional wellbeing as a priority upon schools’ return to a blended model of learning.
Nurture is already used in many of East Lothian’s schools. It is based around strong relationships between learners and skilled adults – teachers, support for learning staff and school teams – to provide stability, boundaries and mutual respect. Nurture principles centre on language, an individual learner’s development and communication, and the security that a school base can provide.
Specialist resources have been created to support staff in understanding how these nurture principles can help them to move back to school-based learning and embed them in their new daily routines. This focus will help children – especially younger year groups – to share their experiences and reconnect with friends and teachers. The resources include specialist online guidance (one for early years and one for school settings) with information, practical examples, resources and video. Webinars will be held in the new term for staff. The Educational Psychology and Early Years services will also be on hand to support schools. The strategy has been welcomed by Headteachers.
East Lothian Council’s Principal Psychologist Dr Lynne Binnie said: “Our staff know the importance of developing positive relationships to support children and young people is essential, more now than ever. Nurture recognises that everyone who works with children and young people has a role to play in establishing the positive relationships that are required to promote healthy social and emotional development.
“A nurturing approach allows permission to focus on these relationships; taking children from where they are and moving forward supporting emotional growth and wellbeing. This foundation will allow children and young people to recover and reconnect with staff and with each other. The impact of school closures on children and young people will be extremely individual and will have had a variety of positive and negative effects. Knowing the learner and offering them experiences which are appropriate for them will be essential. Initially, catching up should not be the priority, we need to give children and young people time to make the transition, share their experience and reconnect.”
Cabinet member for Education and Children's Services, Councillor Shamin Akhtar, said: "As a parent myself I know that families will have worries about their children returning to school. We want to reassure our parents and carers that the strong focus for all our schools in East Lothian will be based on supporting the emotional well-being of our children and creating a safe and supportive environment for them. Every child’s experience of lockdown is going to be difference and we have to make sure that they are supported through this. Dr Lynne Binnie and her team have been working hard with staff to ensure that this approach is taken by all our schools. I would like to thank everyone involved in this work that is going to support all our learners through this difficult time."
Chief Operating Officer for Education Lesley Brown said: “Our return to school this year will be different to previous experiences and it’s important that our approach is different too. Giving our school staff and our learners the opportunity to spend time reconnecting is vital. We need to allow our children and young people to process their experiences and begin to recover from it. This also recognises that everyone has a unique perspective and experience of lockdown, and of being away from familiar, safe spaces and people. Social and emotional development is an important part of our curriculum anyway however it is even more critical at this time to help learners and staff feel safe, confident and comfortable returning to school.”