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Conversation with Rohanne Nicholson, Learning Mentor at Redwood Primary School

How has your role changed since the school closures?

My role has become more virtual and telephone based, because it’s got to be and that’s really hard not having physical contact with parents or children. It’s especially hard with children because they can’t share their worries in the same way, because you’re very aware of their parents in the background. It’s hard when the children say ‘I miss you’, with physical contact being taken away. We’re ringing the families regularly, making sure everything is ok. Having contact is really important so that you can hear their voice. I have done some home visits, which is really nice, but we still can’t talk to them in detail. The children get excited to see you, even though we’re just standing in the drive, they know that you’re keeping them in mind and they can keep you in mind. I am also dealing with many more emails than I used to!

What measures do you think have been most important in managing the emotional wellbeing of your school during the closures?

The most important has been ringing and keeping in regular contact with parents, being there to speak to the children if they need to say hello. I also attend team around the school meetings virtually, which is really useful. The meetings help me keep in touch with services and they can tell me what’s available and where to go. I have been doing Early Help Assessments and have managed to secure a visit for a family. Services have worked really well together through all this and there are a number of places that I can ring for help, as well as our school SENCO. We have really worked together as a team within school and with outside agencies. I’ve also been able to have a laugh with colleagues in the nest, which has really helped me.

What measures do you think will be most important to maintain/ initiate on return to school?

It’s important to be available one to one for parents to talk to someone. It’s also really important to be nurturing, giving children the chance to talk. You have to think about wellbeing before you think about any type of education. We also have to get to know the children again, because although we’ve maintained some contact by calls and visits, they’ll be in regular contact when they’re back and a lot has changed. We need to focus on reassuring, that their feelings are normal and ok.

What has been most important in managing your own/ your family’s mental health during the lockdown period?

The most important for me has been having people around to work with, someone to talk to either over the phone, or socially distanced at work. Having contact with people can really cheer you up if you’re having a bad day.