There been lots of discussion in our Bear Cave about how we can help bridge the gap in our children’s learning after our year of lockdown. Our Educational Advisor Claire Bagnall, shared with us her thoughts on how we can support our children this summer.
I wasn’t surprised to hear the findings of recent research which concluded that the development of children’s language skills have been impacted by successive lockdowns, and that proportionally more four and five year-olds have been assessed as needing extra help in this area.
Analysis in the media of these findings was that parents and educationalists alike felt that this lack of progress was due to the absence of new experiences. These absent new experiences were not limited just to those offered by educational settings, but also those ‘out and about’, which would have exposed children to vocabulary for things and objects that they would not encounter at home, and would have provided them with opportunities to interact and socialise with people other than those they live with. This has been compounded by the wearing of masks which muffles speech and prevents children from watching lip movements. Certainly, now that more outdoor destinations and the gardens of friends and family are accessible to us once more, albeit in a restricted way, children will no doubt be making great strides in their development as a result, as well as enjoying the emotional health benefits these experiences will no doubt bring.
However, at this moment, the homes of others and indoor venues still remain closed, numbers at outdoor venues continue to be restricted and very real concerns remain about the enduring impact of the lockdown on children’s educational outcomes; concerns that are now being underpinned by an increasing amount of emerging data from research. Therefore, the minds of many parents and carers are very much now turning to what else can be done to prevent a detrimental educational lockdown legacy for our children. Fortunately, no restrictions can prevent the acquisition of vocabulary from books, and the sure-fire positive impact of reading with and to our children on attainment in various areas is well-established.
Pre-pandemic, I had been so used to making extensively-considered decisions about and for my children, and so throughout the pandemic, I have particularly resented the fact that so much was out of my control. Despite a career in advising others about education, I have not been immune to the worry that my summer-born daughter has received a small fraction of the nursery education her older brother had received at same age, and I grew increasingly concerned about her looming transition to primary school. Indeed, I continue to be worried about the long term impact of the past year on my children’s future. However, despite this anxiety, helping my children to overcome any disadvantage to their education by sharing the Bear Can Read boxes with them has instilled in me a feeling that I had the means to fight back, despite the constraints in time and resources at home.
My family’s plan for the forthcoming summer months is one of catching up: catching up on fun, catching up on trips out, catching up on visits to family and friends, and using The Bear Can Read boxes to ensure that the fun doesn’t have to end when I invest time in giving my children a helping hand to catch up academically.