As the severity of the situation began to sink in just over a week ago and the rumours about school closures began to intensify, the numbers attending steadily decreased. By the final day of school, attendance wasn’t far off 50% and it showed – complete rows of dinner tables not set up, lots of space in the playground and less outside noise at break time which was probably the strangest thing to get used to.
The children adapted readily as they do; news headlines heard but not fully understood made for some interesting retelling at the beginning of the piece but gave way to acceptance and excitement for the long, long holiday they were about to get – stories of sleepovers and playdates and months of fun ahead with their friends were enthusiastically discussed and the adults could do little but smile and agree whilst crying quietly inside knowing that their future would be somewhat different.
It is impossible to keep children at the recommended distances not least because there simply isn’t enough space but also because they can’t; touch is a vital means of reassurance and communication that could not be curtailed and so rigorous hygiene was promoted instead which they thankfully took to straight away. The usual hug, handshake or high five that was a familiar greeting and farewell were adapted easily by the children into mirroring postures, fancy footwork bumps and little dance routines which lightened the mood and showed how quickly most children accept things. Of course, for some, fear of the unknown and disruption of routine was the foremost concern, manifesting itself in the ways that it does and you worry terribly about how they will cope – outwardly normal but in turmoil inside.
P7 were certainly the most subdued. Possibly cheated of their last term of primary, their rite of passage pulled from them, they struggled with the unfairness. With a more mature understanding, they knew this was not holiday time and bemoaned the loss of their P7 residential, the high school transition days, their leavers assembly and the autographing of jumpers on their last day. This final act went ahead to recognise that this may indeed have been their final day in primary but with the caveat that it would be repeated again at the correct time of the year in the hope that we will be able to return.
The long term ramifications are daunting but must be accepted; in the great scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter if you know who your classmates in high school will be and teachers constantly teach at the level of individual pupils and not at a whole class level so with some adaption, nobody will be disadvantaged on their return and there is so much available online that you could spend entire days learning through online games. For long enough, critics argued about Highland Council’s spend on technology; it was a waste of money and a vanity project and children did not need personal devices. I have to admit that I have long disagreed with the children carrying a laptop as well as their other school items for almost 2 miles each way because of weight concerns but I am delighted now that Highland Council had the foresight to initiate this last year enabling every child to access education when not in the school setting.
One thing has been clear from all the press conferences from both governments and that is how the Scottish Government is being more honest with the people trusting us with the available information whilst it appears to be being withheld from Westminster. I have no doubt though that we are not being told the full story from Holyrood either as Catherine Calderwood looks more shell shocked each time you see her. All we can do is hope for the swiftest passing of this by all by changing our mindsets; we don’t actually need what we think we do and will manage with alternatives; we have got too used to getting what we want when we want it. Stay inside if at all possible and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds – Flower of Scotland is far superior to Happy Birthday!