Whilst we were all aware of the rationale behind the decisions made earlier in March this year, which gave the unthinkable news that COVID-19 was to force schools to close, it still left me with a feeling of unfairness especially for those children not able to finish their first year at school.

Having worked in Reception at Brighton Girls now for several years, you will know my passion is for Early Years. The Early years is the start of your daughter’s school journey, where relationships and stepping-stones for success are laid down. Not only are the Early Years hugely important in terms of early education, but also, the personal, social and emotional development is paramount during these years.

In Week 2 of school closure, I was surrounded by fellow Mums on social messaging sites full of fear, uncertainty and worry, asking ‘what happens when they fall behind?’ ‘what happens if they forget to share?’ ‘how will gaps be filled?’ ‘will teachers really be able to support my child when they return to school?’  ‘will they lose their friendships?’ Although these may all be valid concerns, in the grand scheme of their educational journey at Brighton Girls I do not believe they are anything to be worried about. Yes, inevitably there will be some gaps, but these will not be long-lasting and with the support and guidance of teachers and peers will soon disappear.

What could have had a longer lasting affect was how we re-opened our school to our youngest children, and this was key in our planning and discussion. I asked our girls last week if they were happy being back at school. I also explored if they thought it was a little bit different or if anything was making them feel unsafe or scared. The resounding answer, from them all, was a firm ‘No way, Mrs Pointon!’ As both a Reception Teacher and a mum to two children under 5, the uncertainty about re-opening two weeks ago was at the forefront of my mind. However, life in Reception still has the same meaning, fun and purpose as it always has done for us here. Whilst as adults, we worry about process and logistics, the girls have demonstrated an infectious sense of calm, fluidity and adaptability.

Here at Brighton Girls, we are fortunate to have the small nurturing class sizes, which has meant that girls have remained in their friendship groups during the transition back to school. I know this has not always been the case nationally. They have also remained with their class teacher – so to them, life in our Reception seems unchanged. They have their friends and their teachers, the concrete elements which make them feel safe and secure.

We realise that friendships alongside social development is the pinnacle of every early educational journey. Without that sense of security and the formation of strong relationships, children will not achieve their best. This is something we take pride in nurturing for our girls in school. Seeing those friendships reunited again has made the transition seem so much easier and the worry, as a mum and a teacher, subside. We are also extremely grateful during these times, to have the space in our classrooms and gardens to play and explore safely, without the underlying regulations and constraints taking a heavy effect.

Learning continues as normal – this week we took a favourite story of theirs ‘The Frog Prince’, inspired by the visit to the school pond last week. We have explored life cycles, Queen Elizabeth, designed crowns, used our phonics to find ‘froggy-four-sounded words!’, created portraits (of frogs and queens) and generated some lily-pad sharing and frog-stone weighing in maths! Next week, we will move on to the ‘Little Mermaid‘ again using discussion and considering the girls’ interests which allows them to take ownership of their learning.

For us as teachers, returning to school has only echoed what is important in our teaching. To follow the girl’s interests and passions. To let them explore, play and make mistakes to further their learning. To let them think for themselves, generate solutions to problems and ask endless questions to discover more. To take their lead in our approach to teaching and to make use of what we have, and can create in Early Years, rather than relying on unnecessary embellishments to make learning ‘look’ good! And so, whilst we have endured a national disaster worldwide, I can both happily and confidently say that life in Reception definitely still goes on, with the same sense of ‘normality’ that it always has had. We also appreciate how fortunate we are at Brighton Girls, to have had such little disruption and impact, despite lost time, from COVID-19. I know our girls will leave happy, with secure relationships, an all-rounded start to their education and a grounded sense of self, and having had FUN – which throughout these times, is so important!

Written by Poppy Pointon, Assistant Head | Reception Teacher & EYFS Professional