TP-Issue14.5 | 33 to deal with bereavement, loss and separation. It will confirm their feelings that somehow school rejected them when it shut down and so it is not a safe place for them. If we get this wrong and focus solely on academic learning which children are not ready or able to access it will intensify their feelings of disconnection, leading to disengagement from school and learning. If the focus is on academic catch-up and telling children how much they have missed, it will be ineffective and counterproductive. Proper learning Whatever their educational experience during lockdown, children will have been learning – even those who accessed no formal schooling. It is too easy to feel that if work was not set by the school and is not measurable in academic terms that it is not ‘proper’ learning and doesn’t count. If we are to re-engage children in school, we must recognise, value and celebrate their learning of all kinds. Much of this learning will be different to ‘school learning’ and not on the curriculum. We need to take time to find out who has experienced baking a cake, building a wall or becoming an expert on the Roman Army or the life of an Amazonian dolphin. Even more importantly, who has been a carer for a sick relative or dealt with grief for someone they couldn’t see? tomove their academic learning on. This may feel impossible, but it is the challengemet yearly by the best practice in EYFS. This can act as our model for supportive transitions to enable our children to re-engage in learning and catch up when they are ready. TP expectations and routines of the ‘new normal’. It will take time and support for children to create trusting relationships with adults and each other. This will not be a quick process and will be different for different children. For many who have experienced abuse and trauma, it may take weeks or months for them to be ready to access learning. Without this support childrenwill not be able to ‘catch up’. Teachers know that unless children feel safe, they cannot learn. The greatest necessity in the return to school will be tomake children feel safe, valued and wanted. Only whenwe have achieved this, canwe begin F EATURES CATCH I NG UP This learning and possible trauma may not be on the curriculum but will be key to who our children are. Teachers’ responses will be key to how children are able to reintegrate into school and the people that they will become. If we dismiss this as not being ‘proper’ learning and focus solely on ‘catch up’, we devalue children’s experiences and deliver damaging messages about school and their place in it. New normal For children to catch up and re-engage with school we will need to give them the time and space to understand and process their experiences of lockdown. They will need to learn and adjust to the Sara Alston is a practising SENCo and an independent consultant and trainer with SEA Inclusion and Safeguarding. @seainclusion