Primary teaching involves a lot of preparation and planning but even more so now. We need a contingency plan for the contingency plan, just in case!

Principal Teacher, Vicky Smith, blogs for the Pupil Inclusion Network on the first term back in these momentous times.


I am the Principal Teacher in a Primary School with a school roll of 500+ pupils.  Preparation for the return to school happened during the summer holidays.  The management team and business manager worked hard to prepare the areas with signage and social distancing measures.  We had about 3 different models of learning ready, based on 50%, 30% or 100% blended learning etc.  Communication with parents is important to us, we kept abreast of all developments, so we could tweet or post information via email or on the school website as new guidance was released.

August 2020; risk assessments written, we are ready to go…

The children started on their designated day, full of life.  We had children with surnames A-L on the first day, then the others the following day, on the third day all pupils attended. They had experiences to share and were keen to get to know their new teacher. I was nervous before I saw them. The children in my class were delighted to see friends again, they were smiley and confident all day! My nerves left after the first few minutes talking to the eager to impress pupils. On reflection, my nerves were about the unknown. I didn’t know how they were going to react to a full day of school. I was worried I would have lots of anxious children and not know how to reassure them but fortunately, it was much the same as the start of any new term for the children in my class. The first couple of weeks were about getting to know the children and building positive relationships before starting to get to know what their literacy and numeracy skills were. I taught the children about Zones of Regulation and Building Resilience. These programmes are to teach the children about their emotional wellbeing and how to self-regulate. Health and Wellbeing remains our focus in school. We work hard on literacy and numeracy skills, teachers strive to raise attainment.

There are lots of new routines in place for the children (and me) to remember. They have a pack of resources each, they are not to share resources, gone are the days where I could say ‘just borrow his/her rubber’ every time a child loses a rubber or pair of scissors. I have given out about 10 new sharpeners this week alone! The children are not to move around the classroom like they used to, cooperative learning looks different now. I can no longer send a child to the office with a message or to go to the art cupboard to pick up the art resources I accidentally forgot in my rush at lunchtime. Hand washing takes up almost an hour of my day and I clean the tables before the children eat their lunch in the classroom. PE is all outdoors, with limited equipment. We are all very skilled in running and athletics now.

I have been teaching for 10 years and this is the most uncertain time in education I have experienced. I believe that schools will not look the same again, we will adapt to our ‘new normal’ and the way we used to work will become a distant memory that only the more experienced teacher will be able to reflect on. We are more aware now of cross-contamination, the classes don’t mix to ensure we know who has been in contact with who, this is a change I think we might continue. Hand washing will not just be the responsibility of the child to remember but part of the timetable. I look forward to and I am hopeful that school trips and school camp will return to normal; these are all experiences we remember from school days. Community events are important to schools, parental engagement has been challenging during these times. We are not allowed parent volunteers in the building so that has a direct effect on how parents feel about the school. We will need to be creative with ways of getting parents involved and feeling supported. If we continue to support staff, parents and pupils, we can continue to create a learning environment where everyone has the opportunity to flourish.


If you have an experience that you would like to share with the Pupil Inclusion Network, we’d love to hear from you and you can contact us at info@pupilinclusion.scot

Responding to COVID with a dive into the world of webinars

Cat Kozlowski, Learning and Events officer with Children in Scotland, reflects on the agency’s creative response to meeting the sectors training and learning needs.


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes, for us at Children in Scotland it has meant that we’ve adapted our training programme to webinars that deliver CPD where it’s most needed.

Before the pandemic, delivering webinars was something that we had tried out and although we thought it had a lot of potential, development of that potential had been tucked to the side for a ‘moment when we had more time’.

At the start of March, we were feeling pretty chuffed with ourselves as we had just finalised our learning and events schedule for the next 12 months.

We would normally only plan six months ahead but 2020 was a big year for us as we had included an extra international trauma conference with Dr Bruce Perry in September and we thought it would be smart to plan ahead as much as possible.

Within days of confirming our learning programme for the next twelve months, featuring conferences, training, residentials and study trips abroad, it became apparent that COVID-19 was going to have a massive impact on life as we knew it.

We recognised that we needed to make a rapid response and it was time to dive into the world of webinars.

At times it was challenging to focus on our learning programme as our thoughts drifted to this strange new virus and the threat it posed to our loved ones, friends and colleagues. But it was also this line of thinking that gave us strength and motivated us as we thought about our role in supporting the children’s sector.

We understood that the issues children and young people face weren’t going to disappear due to COVID-19. In fact, the need for us to offer support was going to be greater than ever.

With this in mind we trialled different online presentation platforms and reached out to our trainers to see if they were open to the idea of webinars. Our trainers are experts in their fields with many, many years of experience but for nearly all of them delivering training online would be a new experience.

After a lot of trial and error we selected an IT platform, then within a week we had our trainers up to speed on how to use the software and we had delivered our first webinar. This call to action could not have happened without the dedication of our trainers and the support of our delegates.

It also meant that we were delivering webinars before lockdown came into place in Scotland.

We’d love to say that it was all smooth sailing but as we had jumped in at the deep end, we were learning something new with each webinar we delivered. This sense of learning together helped us build a feeling of community between us, our trainers and attendees – we will forever be grateful to the patience they showed us.

We have now delivered tens of webinars to over 4000 attendees and if we summed up this experience with one word it would be ‘connect’.

These webinars have helped people from Scotland and around the world to connect to ideas, experiences, knowledge and hope.

No one knows what the next stages of the pandemic will bring but we do know that we are stronger in this experience when we come together to support each other.


Details about Children in Scotland’s webinar programme can be found on the Eventbrite page and details of the More Than My Trauma webinar conference (17-18 September 2020) with Dr Bruce Perry can be found here at morethanmytrauma.com.

Twitter: @cisweb

Education is relational in nature; it is a caring profession

Barnardo’s Scotland Policy Lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Nicki Lawrence, and Assistant Director for Attainment Maureen McAteer, set out why the use of Professional Supervision in Education is an important component of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Education staff.

As schools start to wind up for the Christmas holidays, Barnardo’s Scotland Policy Lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Nicki Lawrence, and Assistant Director for Attainment Maureen McAteer, set out why the use of Professional Supervision in Education is an important component of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Education staff.


Education is relational in nature; it is a caring profession and all professionals who work in schools want to do what’s best for pupils.

The idea that all behaviour is communication has permeated widely across the Education profession in Scotland and this is something to be welcomed. An increased understanding of the impact of childhood adversity and the need for a trauma-informed and responsive workforce are all welcome developments. Education staff are now more aware than ever of the crucial importance of relationships in helping children learn and thrive in school.

However, here at Barnardo’s Scotland we know from our work with children, young people and families that investing fully in children’s lives can be emotionally and psychologically draining, as well as uplifting and fulfilling when things are going well. Working in a relational way has a significant impact on staff.

We are currently working in partnership with over 400 schools in Scotland, across 13 Local Authority areas, and where we have Family Support Workers attached to schools they are noticing that Education staff are lacking in the kind of structured supports available to our workers. Reflective or Professional Supervision is a requirement in other health and social care settings and we believe teachers should have access to this too.

However, Supervision is not currently a requirement in Education and many staff will not receive any form of structured support for their own health and wellbeing to enable them to continue to support their pupils, “to fill up their own cup”. That’s why we want to see Supervision in Education considered seriously in Scotland. We recently ran a survey which received over 400 responses from those working in Education – overwhelmingly respondents supported the principle of Supervision in Education as a way to support their own mental health and wellbeing, and to reflect on the impact the work has on them.

We were also delighted to co-host a roundtable on this issue in November with our colleagues at Place2Be and other key stakeholders which was chaired by Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney MSP. We are very hopeful that progress can be made in ensuring that Education staff are getting the appropriate support for their own mental health and wellbeing – and we believe Supervision is an essential part of this.


You can read Barnardo’s Scotland’s discussion paper on the use of Supervision in Education here: barnardos.org.uk/supporting-mental-health-wellbeing-education-staff-through-professional-supervision-structures

When Nikki and Maureen joined in the discussions at our recent PINS: Health and Wellbeing at the heart of the educational experience event in November, a sketch artist captured their input. You can download their images by clicking on the below:


Twitter: @BarnardosScot

Back to school: ‘There are lots of feelings in your tummy’

As the school gates re-open, Children’s Parliament Co-director, Cathy McCulloch OBE, offers five questions to help with reflective practice and reminds us of the importance of staff-learner relationships.


For many children, the summer holidays are something to look forward to, a time filled with family and friends and lots of fun activities and free time. For other children, however, the summer holidays can be stressful; from a lack of structure, time spent with adults who have difficulties or anxieties of their own to not having enough to eat. Anxiety can also build at the prospect of the new school term; thinking about a new class, a new teacher or a move to another school, especially secondary school. Most children benefit from the better attention we give to transitions nowadays, but back at school, on day one, there will be children that need every staff member to be attentive and open to the behaviours that tell us, ‘I’m just not coping‘.  

Across Children’s Parliaments’ programmes, we acknowledge that some children struggle with school. One of our responsibilities is to capture and share their insight with educators. Some of the most powerful work children have produced is about going back to school and moving to secondary school.

There are those first day feelings: “I felt scared, shivery, worried”.  These feelings can change quite quickly: “By the end of the first day I felt more confident about myself”.  There are worries about coping with new systems and ways of doing things: “Getting to classes is really hard”; “I take too long to get ready after PE so I get into trouble”“It’s hard to fit in and be the same as everyone”. For some children, peer relationships in the new bigger secondary school environment are shaped by the fear and experience of violence: “There are so many fights”; “They are not quick enough at stopping fights. There needs to be more staff in the corridors”. 

There seems to be a growing awareness of the centrality of health and wellbeing to learning. At Children’s Parliament, we would wrap this in a view of childhood and education that is rooted in children’s human rights and the core ideas of human dignity, empathy, kindness, trust, and love. If there was ever a time when the mantra it’s all about relationships rings true it is in those first few days back at school: “It can be fun, but it depends on the teacher”. 

There is no denying that back to school might have some feeling of anxiety or dread for the educator too. High demands, feelings of stress, a real need to build personal and professional supports to sustain energy across the year. But as you learn to look after yourself, if you can, take some time to think about these questions.  Make it personal, and even better, do this with your colleagues.  

  • How do I pay attention to what might not be going well for a child? 
  • Do I know what is going well for each child, so that we can build on interests and achievements? 
  • What kind of adult do I need to be, so that a child can come to me with a question or a worry? 
  • Do I recognise and address the emotions or worries that change may bring about for the child? 
  • How is my professional practice informed by non-punitive, positive and restorative approaches? 

All the best to every educator out there. What you do every day matters.  


For more information about children’s views of life at school, Children’s Parliament has many helpful resources online that collate children’s voices from across Scotland, here are links to just a few:

Life at school (Blog post)

What kind of Scotland? Children influencing Scotland’s future (Publication)

Children’s Parliament Investigates Learning (Project)


Twitter: @Creative_Voices