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Sharing the child's journey

The child’s journey must be at the heart of our system. As system leaders in children’s services, we know that co-producing, building and delivering a system that enables that journey to be the best possible is core to our purpose, whatever the experiences and needs of those children and their families. With time out on holiday recently I reflected a lot on the child’s journey through Covid-19 and the vast array of experiences that will impact on their future. The last six months have been challenging for us all and understanding the journey our children have experienced is essential if we are going to enable recovery, “build back better” and keep them central in future planning.

For most children their life journey is punctuated by key events in the calendar and the beginning of the education year is one of the most significant. Transition to new nurseries, schools and colleges or a return to a new school year is a time of excitement mixed with expectation and nerves, plus for some, mixed with anger and dread.

The start of this education year, however, is like no other. Education leaders and staff, together with all of us, and of course parents and children themselves, have taken a firm grip on their nerves to begin the new normal. Buildings and timetables have been redesigned, bubbles organised, multiple guidance documents digested and public health advice given. Staff are prepared and support has been designed to reach out to children whatever their experiences and needs, to enable their disrupted learning to resume. For some, there will be significant needs to address and the social and emotional impact of Covid for many has been more damaging than the impact on their physical health.

How will we make this a success? ADCS President Jenny Coles wrote in her recent blog about the positives that have come from Covid giving us a “renewed common purpose” together with increased partnerships, reduced bureaucracy and rapid and flexible responses during the crisis. We are working to mainstream these positives but the challenge is obvious. Anxiety about the unknown plus the inevitable risk of further Covid surges brings an understandable desire for assurance and management and with that comes bureaucracy, including requirements for data and evidence which take time to collect. We are breaking new ground and differing views can be divisive as can changes to regulatory arrangements linked to Covid concerns, however necessary those are.

The best journey for our children depends on maintaining our common purpose in rocky seas and our common purpose right now is to support them to begin the education year well, return to school and engage in the opportunities for learning, friendships, support and where necessary recovery. Locally and nationally their needs must be prioritised. Whatever this Autumn throws at us we owe it to our children to make things work for them and we will remain stronger together!

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