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A Time to Learn

During a busy and exciting term it is often hard to justify time to step out of School and enjoy the experience of learning as an adult. Accordingly I always look forward to the Autumn Conference for Headteachers where a raft of fascinating lectures and workshops are made available during the two day event. Although it was set in Lincoln this year it was well worth the drive to meet other Headteachers, discuss their views of curriculums, assessment procedures and other important areas of school life as well as to share frustrations and worries together with people who often share similar concerns and solutions to mutual benefit.

The theme of the Conference was about the mental well-being of our children and there was also a focus on the mental well-being of Staff with a wonderful workshop entitled ‘What’s it like to be on the receiving end of you?’ You will have realised that it is not an easy couple of days for not only were we introduced to, or reminded about some pretty amazing statistics surrounding each subject focus, we also have to commit to some serious self-reflection about our own managerial and leadership styles from ‘How do you manage difficult staff and parent personalities which a view to resolving issues happily?’ to ‘Do you give your staff free coffee and biscuits and make them feel valued?’ Yes, some questions are easier to answer than others!

The main lectures about child well-being reminded us all of the very different and in many ways challenging world that our children live in today.  With the world moving at ‘electric speed’ it is very important to remember that the child is growing in ‘biological time’ and we must not and cannot accelerate the organic experiences that provide each child with a strong emotional base and the resilience that they need to face the world as they grow older.   Naturally there was much discussion about screen based technology and the research that surrounds it.  Just before you stop reading this Blog fearing another caution about recreational screen-time, I would preface the statistics with an acknowledgement that technical change can be wonderful, it is just the speed of the technical change that has inevitably thrown up problems.  The good news is that Neuroscience has also moved on apace and we know more about effects and side-effects than we have ever known before.  The statistics that took my attention were provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics (sic) because they are based on research published last and this year.  For children age between 2 and 5 years old the recommended recreational screen-time that last year used to be 2 hours a day is now 1 hour a day.  Apparently the average actual screen-time in the UK for that age is between 5 and 6 hours a day.  The shock comes with children under the age of 2.  The recommendation is NO recreational screen-time at all for under twos. The reasons for this are partly to avoid addiction to screen based technology which does indeed start young and partly because it does not help the child interact with real people which is an essential skill for healthy growth.

It is always helpful to have an analogy to put these statistics into perspective and we were given a brilliant one:  Think of screen based technology as a cooker.  You would not let a child under 2 anywhere near it.  Once past 2, you work carefully with your child to introduce them to the wonders of the cooker, helping wherever possible in an age appropriate way.  As the child continues to grow, the access to the cooker continues to develop with you highlighting the dangers and what not to do such as touch a hot saucepan, to avoid pain until, age around 8 you say to your child, ‘I think that you are now ready to cook yourself beans on toast!’ The child then starts to manage the next stage themselves with you in the background guiding and supporting until they no longer need your help but welcome your interest on the recipe that they are trying to create or the amazing dish that they have made.  Think about it.  It really does make sense!

Annie Thackray