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Getting back to school is so important for children, says Bishop Martin Seeley

We have noticed the difference at home this week. At least from one quarter – one room in fact – there is more activity earlier in the day as our son gets up sooner than he has been used to, to get ready for school.

The experience of rediscovering a morning schedule and routine that we had forgotten about has been repeated in households around the country.

And then there is the old familiar slam of the front door later in the day and the cry ‘I’m home’ directed at whoever is in ear-shot.

Bishop Martin Seeley
Bishop Martin Seeley

Back to school after another long period of home-schooling for most of our children is more than welcome by parents who have valiantly worked as substitute teachers, mentors, encouragers and motivators, and are now breathing a sigh of relief.

No longer are parents having to juggle their jobs and schooling their children, and indeed in many cases trying to support the learning of youngsters of different ages around the same kitchen table.

And most youngsters are glad to be back too, not least to see their friends in person.

While we may try to reassure ourselves that children are resilient and will ‘bounce back’ you have to wonder what they have lost not having the daily social contact with their peers.

And there will be a few who have discovered that lockdown has been just what they wanted, because school was not enjoyable, or even, for them it did not feel safe. For these young people the return is especially hard and we must be especially alert for them now.

The return to school across Suffolk has, apparently, been quite smooth with very high attendance levels.

The return to secondary schools has had the added complexity of the logistical exercise to ensure the mass Covid ‘lateral flow’ testing of pupils, and staff and pupils have done a remarkable job to make sure this works as smoothly as possible.

And because teachers are amazing and creative, as they have shown throughout the times in lockdown, they have made returning to school fun particularly for younger pupils as they rebuild children’s school habits and routines.

Getting back into the routine is so important for all our youngsters, to re-establish the structure which gives them the framework in which to learn and grow.

And as that re-establishing norms of practice and routine is taking place, teachers are also going to be alert to the toll on pupils’ mental health, looking for signs where help is needed. Schools are communities of care as well as of learning, and our teachers and school staff play a very special role in creating and maintaining the culture of care.

And because schools are about learning, they are always orientated to the future, and so are communities of hope, providing encouragement, raising sights, helping our youngsters to envision a future for themselves.

Whether a church school or a community school, all schools do this, all schools are communities of learning, care and hope.

They are crucial in our life together across Suffolk, joining with churches, local organisations and other communities of learning, care and hope in our villages and neighbourhoods, to build a better future for everyone.

- Bishop Martin Seeley is the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and is writing a weekly article for readers while church services are disrupted by the pandemic

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