The children are listening: educated by the adults

03 February 2021
Claire Carter
Claire Carter is Chair of Governors for St Anne’s Fulshaw CE Primary School and is parent to twins at Wilmslow High School, Cheshire. 
Our education system is in disarray, this has been caused by the adults, there is no one group to blame really, we have all contributed to this. The adults can do better.

No one could ever have been completely prepared for what has come to pass over the last year, particularly in education but we can improve it in the interests of the children.

Lockdowns are clearly needed, however, schools were and are still NOT CLOSED. Staff work from school and home to provide an education for all, they are working harder now than ever, they are an awesome group of professionals.

We the adults argue and snipe at each other as to what this education should be, private schools apparently providing something more superior than state. We tell our children their education is not good enough. This is always the fault of others we exclaim from the comfort of our sofas or in the midst of a frantic round of online meetings. Government should do more; teachers are not doing enough and so we go on. This was not and is not an easy situation to be in and there is no one solution that fits all, it’s hard, very hard. Do we ever stop to consider that the children are listening?

The government and press tell us that our children are failing, are not good enough, are becoming a lost generation. There has been a lot of work done at home in many homes across the country. However, they hear what the adults tell them, they’ve missed school, and this is unrecoverable, the work many children do at home is not good enough. They can only learn in the school building. The children are listening.

So now we have a lost generation the children hear, their exam results worthless or diminished as the adults argue over these too. We tell the children that because they are not in the school building that they are suffering from mental health problems so now the children are unstable, uneducated and a worthless lost generation. The children are listening.

What have we taught our children through this ongoing, horrific pandemic? Being in a school building for six hours a day for a total of 190 days in a year is the only thing that makes them worthwhile, educated, mentally stable beings. Their lives are on hold if they are not in this geographical location. The adults in charge cannot agree on anything and it’s because of them that schools, governments, councils and parents cannot agree. The children are listening.

Parents naturally worry about their families, these worries are valid and real. They fear they cannot provide the home educational support; they scream and shout and reach for the gin at lunch. They tell everyone it’s a nightmare. The children again see that this is their fault, their parents don’t like them, don’t want to be with them, are stressed because of them, are drinking because if them. The children are listening.

We tell our children they cannot see relatives. We tell them why, we tell them Hands, Face, Space”. Our health minister tells us, not to kill Granny. A message that is obvious to any child that it is directed at them. They live in fear that they may have, did or could in the future kill Granny. How does this affect the young mind? The children are listening.

We have confused our children so much, stay home, make space, don’t see family or friends but go to school, sit cheek by jowl in class, push and shove in the cramped corridors. This to ensure they get an education and don’t become lost or lose their sanity. They must be so confused; the adults did this. The children are listening.

It didn’t have to happen this way, it really didn’t. If the government had properly supported local council services and schools and parents. If the press for the sake of sales and entertainment didn’t try to divide our communities then this experience whilst still not easy nor simple could have worked so much better. If we made changes and listened to our children. The adults have created this battleground.

It has not helped them be resilient and adaptable and community-focused. It has not supported them, offered coping strategies and enabled them to look for and find help to their problems. We the adults have caused the failing’ of education not by a couple of maths topic areas not quite covered yet but by our behaviour, attitudes and what we have said. The children were listening.

Have we told our children they can do it differently, have we inspired them with stories, have we told them they can learn in other ways, just as many of us have had to adapt and change the ways we work?

We need to adapt our education for this pandemic and indeed create a blueprint for future pandemics and disasters. We have an amazing group of highly skilled professionals who we entrust our children to, they know our children and can continue to inspire and educate them in a variety of ways. We need to show these professionals that we trust and respect them.

The adults need to show the way as the children are still listening.

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