A round of applause for our schoolchildren

When should schools open again?

Hands up everyone who appreciates school
Hands up everyone who appreciates school

When should schools open again? It’s an agonising decision for parents and pupils, for teachers, governors and the local authority. We only get one go at childhood and the capacity to learn in ways that have lasting consequences for us.

Many parents are doing an amazing job at home schooling. But what is it that you can only learn at school?

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My recollection of primary school – a very long time ago – is more vivid in the detail about people and atmosphere than in anything we learnt in class.

I remember the teachers, those I liked or was afraid of. I remember the adults who were kind: playground assistants and the people who gave us our meals. And I remember friends, school sports, the games we devised at playtime, the challenge of getting to school on time, and the excitement of going home when school was finished.

Looking back, these things were a vital part of the wider aspect of education for life. The people, routines and atmosphere of school should teach us something about social processes we need to understand, if we are to flourish as life develops.

I’m impressed by the quality of the learning that is taking place in the schools I’ve visited across the whole of Sussex. The evidence for this learning to be found in the classroom and beyond it.

On arriving at a school I’m often greeted by a member of staff, but then shown round the school by its pupils. Sometimes these are elected representatives from a range of year groups who form a school council.

What is so impressive is the assessment that these pupils make about their school community and its qualities, what they like and what they would like to change.

These visits remind me that in the Bible the education of the child Jesus is described as growing in wisdom and in favour with God and with human society.

The gift of a good education today must include our understanding of the world and its working, how to relate to other people and to understand the spiritual dimension in each of us.

Although our Thursday evening applause for the NHS might be coming to an end, let’s make a point of focussing instead on schools and children. Let’s give additional applause to them, in recognition of the contribution they can make to life now, and to a better future.

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