24 | www.teachwire.net mean a ‘stand-off’ environment. Be conscious of what your body language is telling children and remember that no disease was ever passed on through a friendly smile or a comforting word. Time to talk Tune in to children’s needs and listen to what they say. Use circle time to encourage pupils to ask questions. As one headteacher reported to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, “We need less focus on core subjects and more on the social and emotional at this hard time.” Play time As Professor Ramchandani reminds us, children need opportunities for both structured and unstructured play, especially now. This is not only true of the youngest children. As the teacher in the example above found out, this may sometimes mean standing back, watching, listening and letting children work things through for themselves. BenBallin is an educationalist at BigBrum TIEwhere he isworking on a drama project focusing on themental health and wellbeing of teachers and vulnerable children. He has also co-authored research on global learning and themental health andwellbeing of ASDpupils. Challenging misconceptions Fake news and conspiracy theories have flourished during the lockdown. Helping children distinguish fact from opinion will help them get their heads around what has been happening while developing their critical faculties. For younger children, this may mean being clear that washing hands regularly is a good idea. For older pupils, it may mean looking at news items or social media stories and comparing themwith what the scientists actually say. Transition attention Any rush to ‘curriculumcatch-up’ may be particularly counter-productive for children transitioning from Reception to Y1, as pupils move tomore formalised learning, havingmissed out on the full EYFS experience. Vulnerable pupils Those who were already vulnerable may be more so. Some children not previously designated as vulnerable may have fresh worries, traumas or difficulties to deal with. Some pupils will have experienced bereavement, all will have experienced separation and a sense of loss. Safeguarding and emotional support will need to be prioritised, possibly for a long time to come. Story and drama As the Staffordshire headteacher said, “Drama allows children to play out what’s been going on, while story helps childrenuse and develop their emotional literacy at a time that theywill need it.” Both allow themto do sowithin the safety of fiction. Formy own part, I have beenworking withBig BrumTIE to develop drama strategies which support children’s and teachers’ wellbeing, including a coronavirusmonodrama project. Look after yourself Teachers are anxious too, andwill sometimes be traumatised. This is a good time to be sensitive to your ownneeds and to those youworkwith, even if it is just a kindword or sharing your hand sanitiser. Changing world Much has been written about the wider ramifications of this crisis and how the world might change in its aftermath. Existing fault lines and inequalities have become increasingly visible. One headteacher has been quoted as saying, “The legacy of accountability and austerity has hit some schools hard. This crisis has made that all too clear. Now it’s the time to change, slowly but surely.” For me, the crucial thing @benmballin FURTHER READING Resources Child Bereavement UK – Books and resources for adults supporting bereaved children. childbereavementuk.org Cruse Bereavement Care – Recommended books for children about bereavement and grief. tinyurl.com/tpcruse The Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties Association – Supporting Children at Home ebook. sebda.org/news/supporting-children-at-home Articles The Syllabus – Important contributions on the political, economic and social effects of Covid-19. covid19syllabus.substack.com The Guardian – ‘Don’t turn your home into school,’ says Professor Paul Ramchandani. tinyurl.com/tpguardian Paul Hamlyn Foundation –What challenges are primary schools facing and how can the arts help? tinyurl.com/tpphf Radio Bellfield’s Year – One year with a primary school in a poor part of Birmingham as it battles to stay solvent. Listen on BBC Sounds at tinyurl.com/tpbbc1 The Briefing Room – The psychological impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Listen on BBC Sounds at tinyurl.com/tpbbc2 right now is to keep prioritising children’s very real personal, social and emotional needs over any perceived need to rush into regaining lost time with formal curriculum progress. Indeed, the latter is unlikely to happen if due attention is not paid to the former.