Things to look forward to in the 2020 Summer term

I usually write one of these posts for the start of each school term. I try to list festivals, events and key dates for the term. When I posted Things to look forward to in Spring 2020, I didn’t anticipate how that term would end up for UK schools – COVID-19, the country in lockdown, exams cancelled and schools open solely for vulnerable children and those of critical workers.

Despite the difficulties presented by these extraordinary times, I still hope that there is a lot to look forward to, but this post for the Summer time, is a little different, highlighting key dates that educators may wish to highlight with students in school, or those they are setting work for online, or teaching remotely.

Easter isn’t over! It isn’t just one chocolate-laden Bank Holiday weekend, but an entire season of the Christian calendar. In the Orthodox Church, Easter Monday is on 20 April, the start of term for most schools.

The clocks have gone forward and the days are now longer. One thing to enjoy is no more waking up before sunrise and coming home in darkness. With the reduction in traffic and other activity, many early-risers are finding that the dawn chorus of birdsong is more noticeable than usual. Longer (hopefully) sunlit days help lift our mood, so it’s a good idea to try to make some time to go outside each day. Whether you’re lucky enough to have a garden, or can take your daily exercise in a nearby park or green space, even if it’s overcast, natural sunlight will do you good. Walk to School Week was originally scheduled for May, but has now been moved to October 2020.

While you’re out and about, take some time to connect with nature. Look out for the many changes in the natural world as spring turns into summer. Which plants are coming into bloom? Which berries and fruits are starting to form? Which birds, bees and butterflies do you notice? Take note of these small changes and you’ll soon see that no two days are alike. You can even use an app such as iRecord to add your nature sightings to the National database. If you have to stay at home, the Wildlife Trusts have a range of ways to Look after yourself, and nature.

The recent reduction in carbon emissions and air pollution because of restrictions in place to tackle the pandemic, have highlighted the impact of human activity on the environment. The UN World Environment Day on Friday 5 June, which this year celebrates global biodiversity, could provide a focus for activities on the environment. You can find out more here and even make a remote ocean dive with free education resources from The Ocean Agency.

In the UK, Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 18-24 May. In the light of the National response to coronavirus, the theme has been altered ‘Kindness’, in celebration of the thousands of acts of kindness that are so essential to our mental health, and to start a conversation of the kind of society we want as we emerge from the pandemic. You can find out more from the Mental Health Foundation.

There are many festivals, holidays and events this term:

  • Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) on Tuesday 21 April
  • St George’s Day Thursday 23 April
  • Ramadan starts on Monday 24 April, running until Eid ul Fitr on 24 May
  • The Buddhist festival of Vesak is on Thursday 7 May
  • The Early May Bank Holiday usually falls on a Monday but this year it is on Friday 8 May to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day
  • The Spring Bank Holiday is on Monday 25 May
  • Friday 29 May is the Jewish Holiday of Shavuot
  • The Christian feast of Pentecost is on Sunday 31May
  • In the UK, Fathers’ Day is on Sunday 21 June
  • Monday 22 June is Windrush Day. Initiated in 2018, this day marks the anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks in 1948 and celebrates the British Caribbean community.

Marking the end of a very different school year

Some of the most memorable aspects of school life usually happen during the Summer term: school trips, outdoor education, Summer concerts and productions, PTA barbecues, sports days, proms and end of year awards. Some schools would have activities weeks; others might move to their new timetables before the holiday. These and more enrich the curriculum and help build communities. This term will be very different but we can all think about how we can celebrate our learning communities and, in particular, how we can find novel ways to mark landmark changes for year 6 making the move to secondary, and years 11 and 13 making important transitions without the usual landmarks, including external exams.

Hopefully, before the end of the summer term we will have a better understanding of what the 2020/21 academic year will look like. It may not, however, be a ‘return to normal’. Perhaps this is an opportunity to think about which aspects of the old ‘normal’ we have really missed and look forward to, and which we would like to change in the light of what we have learned in these most extraordinary of times.