First Larne Presbyterian Church

First Larne Presbyterian Church

Will We Ever Learn? A secondary school teacher wonders...


For the second time this academic year, the government have announced that schools are opening again to all students. Parents across the nation rejoiced, but the debate has restarted as to the impact on children’s education.

Extended periods of time away from the normal school environment will have affected students’ learning, particularly for the most disadvantaged. Responsibility for GCSE and A-Level assessment has been returned to schools again, fuelling uncertainty for students and teachers alike. Words like ‘summer school’, ‘additional funding’, and (worst of all) ‘catching up’ are being batted back and forth like some kind of verbal tennis match.

As a teacher, I can’t help but feel like my students are the ball in this analogy. They’ve been bounced from school to home to school again with no particular control over where they go or what they get to do. And all the while, they’ve been listening to a narrative that tells them they have fallen behind. I worry that my students have lost confidence in themselves.

This is a far greater challenge to deal with than catching up on missed lessons. How can we get our students to believe they are going to be okay? Do we even believe it ourselves?

The return to school signals change and uncertainty for everyone. We hope that we will be able to resume ‘normal life’ by the summer, but holding onto faith that we’ll recover feels like self-delusion.

My Christian faith is a bedrock in times like these. In Psalm 33, David talks about the ‘unfailing love’ of God (v5). It’s strangely hard to accept, being loved without needing to prove anything (be it to parents or teachers). Knowing that whatever happens, God’s love is unconditional and will be with us every step of the way. This constancy kindles peace as I navigate ‘unprecedented’ situations – life feels unexpected, but God is not.

I can’t tell my students if they’re going to ‘catch up’. Who knows if we’ll settle into our ‘new normal’ and pick up where we left off. But in God’s unfailing love I am completely certain. It’s this certainty I want my students to feel as they come back into my classroom. Modelling the constancy of that love, channelling it from God, may allow students, parents, and colleagues alike to find the same sense of peace and security that I have.

Kate Hollins

Kate is a secondary school French teacher, and lives in Nottingham.