“Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.”
This week, as the return to school continues, we are focusing on the needs of Early Years children and their families. Most schools in Manchester have Nursery classes, but there is wide variation in how many schools are able to open these as part of the current phase of recovery. However, with a look ahead to September, the issues relevant to starting school in the time of the pandemic will remain a reality for all settings working with young children. The information and resources provided below are suitable for children aged up to 6 years and are intended to support transition back into school for children in Nursery, Reception and Year 1.
Information, advice and resources for teachers and support staff
- Lancashire EYFS consultants have produced a comprehensive guide to preparing the Early Years setting for children to return. It includes ideas and advice on a wide range of issues including how to set up play activities. There is also a helpful activity plan here.
- Specialist services in Manchester have produced this Back to School Activity Pack for younger children
- Washing hands: the NHS has a simple video and picture story that can be used with children
- The NHS Health Education England Library and Knowledge Services website has a range of resources including videos, posters and stories for use with children
- The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) have produced a re-opening toolkit for early years settings. Whilst much of the advice is written with a nursery or childcare setting in mind, school-based early years practitioners may also find the advice and resources helpful in their school setting.
- There have been changes to the EYFS legislation that are temporary but in force throughout the coronavirus crisis. Full information is provided on the DfE website here, with a handy summary from the Early Years Alliance here.
- The Anna Freud Centre have some excellent advisory resources on their Early Years webpage, including:
- 8 ways parents and carers can help children manage the transition back to nursery
- How can Early Years workers help children manage the transition back to nursery?
Answering children's questions
This advice has been provided by the Early Years Alliance (relevant to children of all ages and their teachers):
Discuss as a team how you are going to respond to questions and concerns that come directly from the children.
Remember that some of your colleagues are likely to have their own questions, too.
Make sure that everyone in the team is informed enough to be consistent and accurate in their responses to children and their parents.
- Don’t force the issue. A circle-time activity focused on coronavirus is going to have little relevance to the majority of children in your care. Don’t overload children with information, keep it relevant, age appropriate and simple.
- Set the information you give within a context that the children will understand. For example: “It’s a bit like having a cold, but for some people it can make them feel really poorly.”
- Always acknowledge the interest or question that a child may have expressed, just as you would with any other ‘teachable moment’. A child’s real interest is an opportunity for them to learn.
- Never dismiss children’s concern. What may seem trivial to you is likely to be a very real worry to a child who, for example, has heard that the virus is dangerous for older people and is frightened that something will happen to their grandma.
- Do not talk over children’s heads to colleagues about the latest coronavirus updates. We sometimes forget just how much young children are affected by the concerns that adults show around them.
Information for families
The Early Years Alliance website has useful information for families that is kept updated and relevant, including:
- A Q and A about returning to Reception or childcare this month
- Family Time Tips: a digital service with ideas for activities at home sent to your mobile phone
- Family song and rhyme sessions on You Tube
Resources to use with children
- Pip’s Guide to Covid19 is an activity book for younger children produced by A Better Start Southend
- Don’t Worry, Little Bear! Is a story book written especially to reassure younger children. It is downloadable as an e-picture book
- While we can’t hug is a delightful short video story about a Hedgehog and Tortoise who want to give each other a great big hug, but they're not allowed to touch. Definitely one for children of all ages!
- The Mighty Creatures Lost Their Crown is a children's story about the virus that uses the idea of Bubbles, and also presents further self-help strategies such as staying healthy.
- What is a School Bubble? is a useful Social Story that introduces the idea of (social) Bubbles
- The Children’s Guide to Coronavirus has been produced by the Children’s Commissioner. This is probably most useful for children over the age of 5, but there may be some new ideas here, particularly for children who are still at home and looking ahead to the summer holidays.
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