VIEWS & OPINION Peace matters for pupils

Comment by FELICIA JACKSON, Chair of the Learn2Think Foundation

Conflict is a normal part of human relationships. Today however it is being amplified everywhere, stoked for political ends and fuelled by self-interested motivations. How can we foster the habits and skills to help children resolve conflict and build a positive future? The challenge lies in

recognising that real progress is only achieved under peaceful conditions. When we can see that we are better off cooperating and

communicating than fighting and tearing down; situations can become win-win. By learning and practicing crucial interpersonal skills we can help children manage their new reality and succeed. Children today are returning to school unnerved, often in new

groups they don’t know well, with uncertainty and confusion at the heart of their learning experience. What they need is reassurance and support for learning in new ways, with new people, under strange circumstances. They need to build on their social, emotional and thinking skills in order to be able to effectively meet the challenges they face. One of the ways in which they can do this is by learning the

difference between debate and dialogue, how questions create empathy with others, how important it is to control emotions, and how creativity and communication can drive positive change. At Learn2Think we have built a relevant and accessible programme which helps children do this, under the patronage of UNESCO UK. For Tolerance Day November 16, 2020, we’ve developed a workshop

called Red v Blues that has pupils role-play a ‘battle’ scenario and then listen, question, communicate, and problem-solve their way out of it. This builds on years of work on religious tolerance, understanding history and challenging false information. Another avenue enabling pupils to explore their thinking is the

returning Learn2Think Young Journalist Prize. This provides a wonderful opportunity for Key-stage 2 pupils ages 8-11 to engage in non-fiction writing, practice asking questions, learn the importance of hearing both sides of an argument, and communicate about issues that are important to them. To ensure that our 2020 competition fits in seamlessly with the

school curriculum we'll be launching the competition in September and running it through National Non-fiction November. Entries can be submitted up until 30th November 2020, with the winners announced the week beginning the 18th January 2021. Once again the focus is on interviewing, with this year’s theme being

the resolution of conflict. We want children to interview two people with opposing views on the same subject, or one person with whom they themselves disagree. The aim is to promote better understanding of both the causes and resolution of conflict through listening, building empathy, controlling emotions and problem solving. Once again, the 2020 competition offers entrants the option of doing either a podcast or a written piece. Combining new workshops, lesson plans and the Learn2Think

Young Journalism competition, we offer a range of ways to bring these issues into the curriculum. This not only highlights their importance but supports pupils in learning the necessary skills to underpin their education and development. With the challenges of 2020 continuing to affect us all, it’s increasingly important that we learn these skills across every element of society. By starting with our children we can be most effective in the longer term.

How primary schools can help pupils catch up and move on

Comment by GRAHAM COOPER, Product Strategy Director, Juniper Education

With schools welcoming pupils back to the classroom for the most important academic year yet, it’s still not clear what the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be on children’s education. But one thing we can be sure of is that educational inequalities will have increased, making disadvantaged pupils the likely collateral damage of the crisis. In its report on children’s experiences

of home learning during the Covid-19 lockdown, The Institute of Fiscal Studies suggests primary school children from more affluent families spent 75 minutes a day more on educational activities than those from less well-off backgrounds. As a result there will be a great deal of variation in learning

experiences, and schools will have to work hard to close gaps and get pupils back on track with their learning. My colleague Jane McKenzie-Downes, education advisor at Juniper

Education who also trains Key Stage 1 and 2 moderators, has some advice on how primary schools can identify lost learning and help pupils catch up.

Spotting the gaps Schools need to get an understanding of where pupils are in their learning progress as soon as possible. However, as Jane explains, “the problem with simply testing children is that a score on a test – even a high score – can mask gaps in learning.” “On the other hand, teacher assessment is highly targeted but we

have to accept that it takes up a lot of teachers’ time and there’s a risk that judgement may not be consistent between classes.” That’s why a hybrid approach which draws out the advantages of

both standardised tests and teacher assessment would work well for schools this autumn. Teachers could use classroom quizzes to get clarity on pupil progress, and to keep it relaxed these could take place in quick sessions throughout the day, for example at registration, after lunch or just before going home. “The emphasis should be on which objectives a child can or cannot do

in each of the key areas of the curriculum, rather than an overall test score, because this shows where the gaps are,” says Jane.

Building key skills The challenge of helping children catch up at the same time as making age related progress will call for some creativity in the way the primary curriculum is taught. The Department for Education’s guidance on full school opening

states that “prioritisation within subjects of the most important components for progression is likely to be more effective than removing subjects, which pupils may struggle to pick up again later.” So schools may need to focus on filling the gaps in the most important aspects of the curriculum first and addressing the less critical elements further down the line. As Jane McKenzie-Downes says. “It’s not realistic to catch up on every

learning objective, so schools need to pick out the most important. For example, in Year 4, multiplication is essential while Roman numerals are less so. “It’s a good idea to sit down with the teacher who is teaching the

class next year and work out which curriculum objectives are the most important and will be the barriers to moving on.” There’s no doubt that addressing the impact of learning losses will

demand new levels of skill and professionalism. But by using a blended approach to assessment and delivering small bursts of learning to make a big impact, schools can set children back on the path to progress.

September 2020 23

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