School closures mean everyone will have to become used to a new ‘normal’.

After the Prime Minister's announcement on Wednesday that all schools will be closed 'until further notice', one head teacher has given some 'down to earth' advice to parents.

Ben Evans leads independent prep school Edge Grove in Hartspring Lane, Aldenham, and this is what he has to say.

"School closures mean that everyone will have to become used to a new ‘normal’ and that will take considerable adjustment for many families who are balancing their jobs with home schooling support.

"But parents shouldn’t feel pressured to fill their children’s days with a full timetable of lessons.

"Schools have a duty to support parents with comprehensive computer-based academic plans as well as web-based seminars, which will ensure that pupils are learning and making progress in all subjects.”

However, maintaining a routine and providing some structure to children’s days, Mr Evans believes, is the way forward.

He added: "My advice to parents is to agree on a regular time for breakfast each morning, encourage your child to be fully dressed and ready to start the day, to get them into the right frame of mind for learning. So no onesies or pyjamas! This will help towards creating a prompt start to home learning."

Many schools like Edge Grove are starting every home school day with an online tutor session for pupils to make contact with their teacher and classmates. Mr Evans believes this time with peers and teachers is incredibly important for what could be a prolonged period of time.

He continued: "Parents should also try to encourage their children to maintain regular contact and dialogue with their school friends in a safe way. This is so important not only for their mental wellbeing, but also in terms of nurturing relationships and enjoying some light hearted social time together.

"It’s worth considering that this is also a worrying time for many children who don’t know when they will be returning to school and are looking to adults for reassurance in what is an uncertain world."

His top tips for getting home schooling off to a positive start

  • Children should work in short bursts of no more than 30 to 50 minutes (age dependent), especially if their learning is mainly screen based. This must be interspersed with regular exercise and fresh air.
  • Try to provide a dedicated workspace at home – i.e. the kitchen or dining room table set up with everything they need to work, a desk is great if you have one or an area that indicates a ‘classroom’ or space for learning, which is used just as that, to give the necessary separation from home and school.
  • Discuss the routine for each day with your children so they can ask any questions and set out your expectations– just as would happen at school.
  • We nurture children to be independent learners and teach them to take responsibility for their own learning in school, so this is a great opportunity for them to put those skills into practice, with regular praise and support from parents. Taking ownership of tasks should be encouraged as this also builds resilient learners.
  • Intersperse ‘lessons’ with learning spellings, reading books, outdoor garden activities or sport, music, art and crafts, cooking or drama-based activities to replicate a busy school day.

Mr Evans added: "Contact your school and get advice rather than worrying at home. Ensure that your children’s pastoral and wellbeing support receives as much attention as their academic work.

"Don’t panic or worry, this is not easy for anyone and there is no rulebook on this, we are learning as we go along. So look to the positives and the opportunities to extend your children’s knowledge and to be part of their learning."

Many parents are concerned about juggling their careers with home schooling and giving their children enough attention and focus. But Mr Evans stresses that family always comes first as it can be counterproductive to home school in a stressful environment.