Schools Out For Summer!

This week my kids officially broke up from school, although unofficially they’ve been off since March 14th when the lockdown started. During this time they’ve been given work by each of their schools, we’ve paid for extra teaching and my Wife and I have tried our hands at homeschooling. My Wife having a lot more success than me it has to be said.
I thought this would be a good time to speak to a teacher and find out her views on what has been going on during the lockdown and what is planned in the future.
Huge thanks must go to Josie Grant who I’ve known for a few years and have interviewed on the radio. She works for a state school called CEIP Na Caragol in Arta – its the only school in Mallorca (there are 68 in the whole of Spain) that offer a project with the British Council- started in 1996, to give the kids a better chance in life (they mainly chose less fortunate areas). They normally teach half of their schooling in English (well a third here because of catalan). It’s not just teaching English – its a mix of the British and Spanish curriculum’s and she teaches in English.
I asked Josie a series of questions and you can see her answers in bold.
Lots of parents have had to home school their kids with varying degrees of success. They probably understand more now the pressures teachers are under So how would you say from what you’ve seen and heard how well the parents have done? Personally I would say the parents have done an amazing job.  Many parents were having to work from home at the same time as helping their kids with learning- so that of course, was a major problem for many families.  Some age groups meant that the kids could get on with the work that the teachers provided without much help ( i guess more just checking the kids were actually DOING the work and not playing some online game), whereas the younger years really do need someone beside them to help them with the given tasks.  For some parents it has been impossible – could be that they don’t have access to computers (our school did actually supply those families with a laptop) or it could be that they have 3 kids and only one device etc etc.And for sure there are those parents who just felt unable to do it – its a world they don’t know and they maybe don’t have the headspace/or felt they were constantly fighting with their child rather than actually getting anything done (I am sure there have been parents who just did the work for their child to have an easy life!)  Parents are NOT teachers so it has been hard for them.  We give constant feedback and help the parents who are struggling as best we canWe would speak to the parents (individually) once a week to check how things were going and then could help to fix any problems their child was having.  We also speak once a week to each child.  Then there are also the zoom sessions and online virtual classes where they all participate.
Parents moan every year at the time kids have off in the summer normally but this year I’m sure it will be worse as it will be nearly 6 months away from school. What Would you say to them? ha ha Have patience.  Yes the summers are longer than the UK but you have to also take into account we dont have any half terms – so I think at the end the Spanish kids only actually get 2-3 weeks more of holidays than the kids in the UK.  The summers are the long ones because it is so hot – many state schools have no air conditioning etc  And now with it being nearly 6 months in total , and it seems many summer camps have also been cancelled – its very hard for the families.  To keep children entertained can be exhausting and costly, and I know there are many families who are having major struggles with this – especially when the tourist industry opens the doors again and many parents will have to work.  This could mean that the kids get dumped with grandparents or older siblings to be looked afterI wish i had a solution to this problem but there are so many different cases for families that it is hard to find a solution. 
Do you think the lockdown will have an effect on kids of certain ages? Definitely.  Especially for the younger years.  The children who start school at 3 (first year infants) always have a period of adaptation into school life etc.  Now ALL three infant groups will have had so much time off school at home with their parents that they will all need to re-adapt to school again. That will obviously slow the learning process down as we will need to re-teach all the rules of the school/classrooms etc and they will need to re-adapt to being away from their parents again…….  The older kids, although they have worked hard, its not the same as being in school – however I feel they will adapt easier and it wont take them as long to “get back into the swing of things”.  Its also a concern that the kids could have developed bad studying habits which we will have to fix.
Who would you say organised home schooling better, public or private schools? I can only speak of the public sector but i would say pretty much the same – maybe the private schools were at an advantage in that they have better equipment and used the computers more when they were in school.
Is there a protocol set yet for the return of the kids in September? At the moment we are setting up the school to start in September with reduced classes (they would all go to school but each class would have max 15 kids) obviously this puts a lot of pressure on the schools with limited staff etc And still nothing is completely confirmed as we dont know for sure what the situation with COVID will be in September. It could be that everything is back to normal (we WISH) but we have to set up as if it wont be.  Also the amount of work this takes means that it is likely to be that way for the whole academic year 2020-2021 as its a major job that can’t easily be undone without  another whole reconstruction of the school – its not as simple as “just go back to what it was”, timetables have been put in place, groups have been made etc etc
How will the schools manage social distancing? with extreme difficulty.  The older ones will be able to adapt as they have a better understanding of the whole situation.  But the early years is virtually impossible – how can you tell a 3 -6 year old child to not hug/hit/play with his classmate? If the child is upset are we not allowed to hug and console them? These are questions we are also still waiting to see what the Conselleria will advise.  We will obviously all have to wear masks/sheilds and the older children will have to wear masks too
How long do you think it will take schools to get back to normality like it was before the lockdown? like i said in a previous answer it will probably be the whole year – it will at least be the first term, but my school is preparing for the whole year given the amount of re-organisation involved.
I would like to add that its important to see our side of the story too – as a teacher of early years I dont rely much on online resources – yet i have had to learn to use many new programs, come up with creative ideas that can be done from home (teaching English to kids who can’t really read or write makes this a huge challenge), also many families have limited resources and shops were not open to buy paper/pens/glue etc etc.  So i promise you, I have never worked as hard in my life! Plus we had to have constant contact with the students and their families – then all the online department/ whole school etc meetings- it felt never ending…..
PS – i know you love to complain about the long holidays – i challenge you to do my job for a month and see what you say after that! hahaha we NEED those holidays otherwise no teacher would return in september!!!!
Once again a massive thanks to Josie for answering the questions in such an honest manner. I for one have learnt a lot from what she’s said. In reference to her PS, I’ll stick to what I know thanks and tip my hat to all school teachers out there and look forward to you taking my two back in September!
When you’re reading this Ayesha and I will be halfway through our 36hr Radiothon so don’t forget to support us in any way you can to help our amazing charities, thank you!
Take care everyone and enjoy your weekend!
Richie presents the Radio One Mallorca
Breakfast show Monday to Friday07.30-11 on 93.8fm in Mallorca and 102fm in Calvià, online at on mobile through their free App for IPhone & Android, The Tunein Radio App, iTunes, the Spanish TDT TV service and all smart speakers. If you can’t hear him on the radio then you’ll find him working at Pirates Adventure the islands number one night out and every now and again he may make an understudy appearance!
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