VIEWS & OPINION Tolerance needed for a

fairer future Comment by FELICIA JACKSON, Chair of the Learn2Think Foundation

The impact of the COVID crisis has been immense, not simply in terms of direct impact, but in creating the kind of shock that changes norms. Racism in all its forms was embedded within our society, now people are standing up and exploring how and why that happens, saying ‘no more’. So where do we go from here? The economy is in the worst state in recorded history and children’s education has taken a massive hit. It’s not simply those students whose exams are going to be

affected or who are unable to take part in home learning but about the structure of educational programmes in a world where the ability to make informed decisions, and learn what information to trust, is critical to survival. The theme of Tolerance Day 2020 is moving beyond conflict and it

couldn’t have been more prescient. We need to learn to embrace and understand the feelings of others, to respect those feelings but to unpick them. We need to explore and implement structural and behavioural changes that address the social, economic and environmental injustices that might be a cause of conflict. An essential component of tolerance is empathy, an understanding that whether you agree with other people or not, they have the same right to be heard as you want for yourself. This acknowledgement is fundamental to moving forward. The word tolerance is difficult for some, because they feel it suggests

that you have to put up with what others say or do when you don’t agree, you have to tolerate bigotry, ignorance or cruelty. That is not what it means and not the message that we need to convey to our children. When there are opinions that are objectionable or indefensible we must stand up and refute them but it’s how we do it that matters. Tolerance is respecting the right others have to an opinion or practice, not the opinion or practice itself. We must develop mutual understanding and dialogue to enable peaceful co-existence. In a statement about its International Day for Tolerance, UNESCO

says, “Education for tolerance should aim at countering influences that lead to fear and exclusion of others, and should help young people develop capacities for independent judgement, critical thinking and ethical reasoning. These are the most basic underpinnings of a free and fair society that should be embedded in education at all levels in all ways. To fight intolerance and bigotry we require laws, education, access

to information, individual awareness and local solutions. We know that the systems on which our society and economy function are not fit for purpose. Global health concerns, growing inequality, climate changes, racism and colourism are all the results of systems that don’t work for a fair, clean and productive world. We need to embed the values of tolerance, empathy and kindness, we need to teach the skills to assess misinformation, we need to teach children to be aware of the impact of the systems within we operate. This is not the time to worry about scaring children – they already live

in this reality and they are surrounded by information and misinformation on a daily basis. We need to empower them as independent creative, critical and compassionate thinkers because they are going to need to help fix the system we inherit. If you (whether through your school or as a home schooler) would

like to take part in the virtual pilot of Tolerance Day 2020, then drop us a line at

How primary schools are accelerating out of the Covid-19 crisis

Comment by GRAHAM COOPER, Product Strategy Director, Juniper Education

When the Covid-19 crisis took hold and the school gates closed to all but a few pupils, schools focused on keeping children learning at home. Now it’s time to address the next

challenge – making up for lost time. Primary school leaders are rising to the challenge with effective strategies to help pupils settle back and recover lost learning.

Putting wellbeing first As children return to school in greater numbers, it’s still not business as usual. Schools look very different in the age of social distancing, and staff are working hard to deliver emotional support. Many children will have felt the impact of the coronavirus pandemic,

even if they don’t fully understand it, so the first priority will be pupil wellbeing. “It’s important not to make the children’s stress and anxiety any

worse,” says Claire Jaques, headteacher of Acorn Academy. “They may have been hearing adults talking about things they don’t understand, but they will have picked up that those things are scary.” Schools may need to give some of their staff more pastoral

responsibility at this time, and provide safe spaces where children can talk to a trusted member of staff or discuss concerns in small groups. “All of us will have to think on our feet, be creative, and find

resources we can direct families to. We have to think long term,” says Claire Jaques.

Tackling lost learning We won’t know the full extent of the crisis on children’s education for some time yet. But what we do know is that education inequalities will have widened, and disadvantaged children in particular face an uphill journey to catch up with their learning. “There are pupils who are now identifying as vulnerable who weren’t

on our vulnerable list before lockdown,” says Stephen Chamberlain of the Active Learning Trust. Schools need skilled teaching and assessment to redress the balance,

and it’s not realistic to catch up on every learning objective. Take the Year 4 curriculum for example, where multiplication is an essential skill, but Roman numerals are less important and can be taught later on. Teachers need to work together to decide which curriculum objectives

are key to pupil progress and will be the barriers to moving on, so they can make sure these are firmly embedded. However, it’s important to recognise the learning gains as well as the

losses. “Some children have learnt so much at home and not all of it will be

tickable on an academic list,” says Claire Jaques. “We need to acknowledge these new skills and help them progress from this point.” There could even be some positives we could take from the upheaval

we’re experiencing. As Stephen Chamberlain says, “We should be asking, ‘can we make learning better in the future, not just as a response to the pandemic?’” Covid-19 has cast a shadow over us all, but the education sector is

responding with creativity and innovation to ensure schools accelerate out of the crisis. There’s never been a more important time to focus on individual pupils, overcome inequality and look ahead with optimism.

To read how other primary school and MAT leaders are preparing their Covid-19 exit strategy, download possible/a white paper from Juniper Education.

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