by Rebecca Brooks
AUK Education Policy Advisor

With measures to contain Covid-19 accelerating, and the government announcing last night that schools will be closed for an extended period, there is understandable concern for many adoptive families. 

This is a busy and uncertain time and we know that many of you are under pressure, but if you are able to plan and prepare, it may ease the transition if the time comes. 

Here are our top tips for preparing for a school shut down: 

  • If you are in work, speak to your employer about the arrangements that they can put in place to support you. Current Government advice (as of 16th March 2020) is that all who can should begin working from home, but that is not possible for everybody and even if it is possible, it is not easy to work with children also at home. Employees have the right to take time off to care for dependents in emergencies but, depending on workplace policies, this may be unpaid. Parental leave may also be an option for up to four weeks but again, this is usually unpaid.
  • Keep up to date with advice that is being issued by the school.  Some children will still be able to access school during the closures, but clarification is needed as to exactly which children are included in these measures. Where schools use digital platforms to communicate with students and parents, these will probably be used to a greater extent to keep families updated and set work where appropriate. Remember that schools may not yet be able to answer your questions about possible closures, arrangements for exams and other issues as they are also awaiting guidance.
  • Consider your plan for structuring your day and managing possible trigger points such as screen time and your child’s use of social media.  Now is the time to discuss the plan with your children. It will be easier to manage these issues if you are not caught unprepared.
  • Check your household supplies. Do you have paper, pens, colouring pencils and other stationery supplies in the house? If you are likely to be printing off resources and sheets, do you have a working printer with plenty of ink? Now is the time to check that you have essential supplies in place and gather them together into a handy box or drawer.
  • Go through your books, board games, construction toys and similar items to build up a stash of relatively low-stress entertainment ideas that don’t involve screens. If you are not self-isolating and you feel able, there may still be time to visit your local charity shop to pick up extra items.
  • Do a little online research. There are hundreds of education-themed websites offering resources, ideas, worksheets, online learning and more. We have compiled a list here. Some subscription sites are offering limited-time free or reduced offers to support families in case of school closures.
  • Make best use of your TV streaming services. Services such as Prime Video, Netflix and even YouTube can allow you to binge watch shows that are not only great entertainment, but also brilliant learning opportunities, such as Horrible Histories, natural history programmes, and programmes for younger children like Nina and The Neurons. While we may wish to limit screen time under normal circumstances, we all need some down time occasionally, and half an hour spent watching an entertaining but educational programme might give everyone the break that they need.
  • Think about how you will get some exercise and let off steam. Being cooped up in the house for days on end is difficult at the best of times, but current Government advice (as of 16th March 2020) is that even if social distancing, exercising outdoors is fine as long as you are not in close contact with others. Find out what walks and sites of interest are available in your local area that might still be suitable. If you have a yard or garden, think about ways to make use of that outdoor space. If possible, plan to get outdoors once per day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
  • Build up your online social networking. Many sources of in-person support will not be available to us in the coming weeks. At Adoption UK, we are working hard to move as much of our support as possible online, both for support groups and on our forum. When times are tough, there’s nothing like being around people who ‘get it’, even if it’s only virtually. 
  • Plan for self-care and wellbeing. Education is important, but the physical and mental health and wellbeing of your family is more important. When this is over, education and schooling will resume. For all of us, our priority will be keeping ourselves and our families safe and healthy until that time comes.