How did this last year affect EY practitioners across the country?
The past year has been tumultuous, to say the least, arguably the hardest since the Second World War. Early years practitioners have been at the forefront of the crisis, providing support, care, teaching and comfort to children during what must have been a very confusing time for them.
We asked our community for some thoughts on how they have found the past year.
Not having physical contact with children and most of the contact with children being through telephone calls and calling at people’s homes was hard. Some families were brilliant at continuing to work and play with their children even when the parents were having to work from home but, for some children, being at home was difficult and they regressed. Also, for some families, everyone being together meant the situation became toxic and not the environment you would want a child to be in.
2020 was a challenging year for the school community as a whole. Although we had remained open throughout for key workers’ children, a full re-opening in the midst of a pandemic was daunting, knowing we could potentially be putting very young children at risk (and vice versa). There is no such thing as social distancing when you’re 3 years old! It has also had an impact on getting to know and gain the confidence of families (with no home visits) and settling children into an environment they have had no opportunity to visit. It’s hard to build up a partnership of trust with parents who can't enter the building .We have used technology more than ever before in terms of both inductions and home learning as, at any moment, we can be called upon to self-isolate. Keeping children in their own "bubbles" and feeling isolated from the whole school community has also had an impact both on practice and staff morale alongside having limited resources as some areas (eg. sand, water and playdough) are deemed unsafe. We are constantly cleaning and disinfecting equipment and rethinking opportunities to offer them in a way that ticks all the new health and safety rules.
LG, St. Helens
We closed for 4 months so this meant 4 months of us missing out the children's development which is a lot at their age. Due to this we spent the first few weeks getting to know their levels of development and planning accordingly. It did take a couple of weeks to get back into the swing of things but the children we really excited to get back and see their friends and it was lovely to see all parents and children again.
In March, when schools closed teachers had to completely reinvent the way school operated. We sent children home with a pack of work to be completed at home but we were not sure how long the lockdown would last! We also realised how important it was to have daily contact with all the children, just like we would if we were in school, from a safeguarding point of view, but also for everyone’s wellbeing and sense of normality. We used an online learning platform to interact with parents and children, post videos and resources and direct them to more age-appropriate learning activities than the paper based tasks we had sent home initially. We filmed ourselves reading stories, making crafts and modelling learning tasks. We spoke to children and parents on the phone regularly - vulnerable families we phoned daily. We dropped off resources and food vouchers for children that would usually receive free school meals - all things I’d have never thought would become part of my role! From September 2020, the new school year, we have been organised into ‘bubbles’ - in my case my bubble is 60 children and 6 staff so still quite a sizeable bubble. School is nothing like I have ever known before but can’t help but feel this is the new normal for a while yet!
How was 2020 for you, and for that matter, how is 2021 shaping up with the latest news around lockdown and settings remaining open? Let us know what you think with the hashtag #ournurserylife