Have you become the family referee again?

Teenager girl studying online at home looking at laptop at quarantine isolation period during pande

You are not alone in this and please reach out to your children’s education provider if you need support. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We are now back in lockdown, and educators are again thrown into the jungle of online teaching.

This can only mean one thing: teachers are not looking after your children and teenagers five days a week... you are (with the caveat of vulnerabilities’ requirements and key workers’ children).

With your role as a parent, you have the added pressure of guiding, supporting, encouraging - nagging? threatening? - your children, as well as referee the use of the family PC/laptop, and maybe the kitchen or dining table space.

As I write this, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson reminds us of his promise of thousands of laptops and reduced or free data for education sites. 

As these devices start to trickle down in Torbay schools, educators hope to ease your burdens by providing you with the tools. 

It is very much worth exploring the use of PlayStation and Xbox at home to enable a duplication of devices.

Indeed, Birchgrove Comprehensive School in Swansea was the first to circulate a 'how to’ guide for easy access to schooling from what is normally a video game station, devised by one of their students 'William'; most schools and secondaries in the Bay have now received this 'trick of the trade'.

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If you have not, see William’s school-page on Facebook.

This may help somewhat but not totally fix your need for refereeing within parenting...

Earlier in the week, I was able to discuss parenting-in-lockdown matters with Sonia Worthington, director at Parenting Solutions Devon. 

Her organisation is often contacted by local schools for targeted support, and otherwise charges for the skilled services it offers to people in the Bay when they are available for face-to-face meetings or virtually online. 

There are also many ways to access the service if parents aren’t able to afford it. 

Hence, given our new lockdown predicament, Sonia wanted to share some advice with us in order to ease your burden and assist in a way that would reach many.

Her initial advice was to contact the school or schools (in many cases) first, to check and discuss potential timetable overlaps among your children and make the relevant teachers aware of this.

As children will work better if something is visually represented for them, she believes that organising a daily visual timetable/schedule and adding in timeslots during which the children can use the family laptop/device will be paramount. 

The older the child, the more they will want to be involved in this planning, and the better they will adhere to it, confirms Sonia.

At school, students/pupils will have breaks between lessons, two, or even three longer breaks and it is vital that they can still benefit from that.

“Print off any schoolwork where possible so all the children can be doing schoolwork while one is online, this will stop the boredom setting in” was another tip for over-stretched families.

The Government is currently negotiating with internet providers to ask for extra data for the children to use while working on their devices accessing school lessons. 

BT, Three and Vodafone have all confirmed that they will work with the government to assist 'disadvantaged children that could fall behind in school without access to the internet', this was reported by the BBC.

Approximately nine per cent of UK children are without access to a laptop, desktop or tablet says Ofcom, furthermore, over 880,000 from a household with only a mobile internet connection.

If this is your case, it is worth asking your school whether they have been made aware of these current plans by the Department for Education.

Returning to the BBC, there has been a huge push forward by the Corporation, to offer curriculum programmes that work alongside the usual Bitesize pages. A fantastic article entitled: “Lockdown Learning: BBC puts school materials on TV, iPlayer and online” will guide you through the best way to enlist their support.

Parenting Solutions Devon had further advice for parents working from home who also need the family laptop/PC: “get up earlier before the children and ensure as much work admin is completed for that day before the children wake up”.

As I have seen with my own grown-up children’s family needs, Sonia’s guidance resonated so true with us: “parents will need to factor in a timetable to care for the children and see to their needs, sort of like a tag team.”

As a single parent family, this time is super-challenging – “Gingerbread” the leading national charity working with single parent families, since 1918, have been at the forefront of shaping policy and services that support single parents. Their website offers many ideas and reminders on how to navigate the lockdown rules, including support bubbles, and childcare arrangements. 

Another top tip by Sonia Worthington would be to negotiate with your work when you can fit your working hours in during the day whilst you care for the children. Early mornings working might help and also late-night working when the children are in bed if your work allows, would be incredibly helpful to you.  

You can equally contact the Action for Children Torquay centre for under-five parenting assistance, Sendiass Torbay for children with added needs, Family Lives is recommended by Torbay Council for parenting and family support.

Last but not least, please remember you are not alone in this and please reach out to your children’s education provider if you need support.

We’ve done this before; we are all better at it. You, the parents, your children and us, the educators.