Priority during lockdown should be children’s happiness

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In the first part of a two-part interview, Anna-Louise Van De Merwe, National Director of the Foundation Years Trust, argues the best way to keep children learning during lockdown, and when the schools reopen, is to make sure they are happy

Parents shouldn’t feel pressured to try and become teachers at home during the lockdown, says Anna-Louise Van Der Merwe from the Foundation Years Trust (FYT), instead the focus should be on keeping children happy and healthy.

“I don’t think parents should be home schooling – particularly with younger kids,” she says. “I don’t think anyone should be feeling that that’s what they need to do.

“I would personally argue that for most parents the priority should be about kids’ mental health – keeping them happy and keeping them engaged.

“It should be about play and using this time to focus on being a child. This is an opportunity for parents to spend time with their children and they should be allowed to make the most of it.”

Keeping children happy should be main priority during lockdown

FYT is a small Wirral-based charity which works with parents to try and ensure all children, including those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, start school on an equal footing. It focuses on the crucial years from birth to the first days of school, with a core focus on building communication and language skills which set children up for success in later life.

The trust believes in the power of learning at home through simple everyday interactions and play, which can enhance children’s learning in the early years. And Anna-Louise says that is more important than ever in the current climate.

“Our approach to the home-learning environment is all to do with play and interaction and developing learning through those everyday opportunities,” she says. “It has never been more important than now, so our challenge is to make sure that we maintain and build that following.”

The trust’s team has been communicating with families through its website and social media, and Anna Louise says both children and parents can benefit from the increased time together.

After the lockdown, Anna-Louise believes it will be important to help parents to keep up the relationships they have developed with their children. “It’s our responsibility to be the ones turning around to parents and saying, ‘look what you just did, you’re amazing. Now you don’t have to do it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but you’ve developed so many skills, don’t stop now and leave it all to the schools.

“Parents are interacting more with their children, playing with them more. That’s a good thing and we need it to continue after this is over.

“It would be fantastic if the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary stood up and told parents and teachers that children’s mental health and happiness comes first. Sadly, I can’t see it happening, but that really is the most important thing right now.”


Next week:  How the Foundation Years Trust is adapting to meet the needs of parents during these unprecedented times.