Family & Education

We all need a break in this Dickens of a year

There are still activities for children to enjoy during the summer holiday


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Charles Dickens certainly knew what he was talking about and, in many ways, the past few months really have been a tale of two cities.

On the one hand, it has been exceptionally challenging, the devastation of the virus, the lockdown, the economic impact, our synagogues closed and the months of children out of school.

However, on the other hand, through tragedy and darkness there have been glimmers of light. The spirit of the country as we stood together and cheered the NHS and key workers, the empty roads, clearer skies, time with family and even the jokes on WhatsApp groups, though my children would have placed most of mine in the former category.

Through the first few weeks there was perhaps a blitz spirit pervading with people being more polite and considerate and we realised that we were in this together. However, as we come out of lockdown, we have perhaps become a little less accepting and have grown tired of the excuse that “due to coronavirus we can no longer offer this service”. We expect shops to be open and the country to be back up and running, even if it means screens and masks are the new normal.

At the forefront of this dissatisfaction appears to be the schools, with the press questioning why children can’t all be back in the classroom and at the same time be receiving a top- quality provision through distanced learning platforms.

The reality, especially in our community, is very different. Jewish schools have been a model of good practice. Whether it has been the provision for students during lockdown or the determination to reopen, we have seen incredible achievements, often the result of exceptional self-sacrifice by teachers and school leaders.

Over the past few months Pajes has partnered with the JC to share different perspectives of education. These ranged from how to connect with our children during lockdown, why we need to support our schools, to how to get our children back to school safely. Sadly, we know it is unlikely we have reached the end of this journey.

There may well be a second wave, and the educational provision for the coming year could be fraught with challenges. If so, we have time now to take stock. For schools this means preparing to educate students both in school and out, with many already putting into place contingencies for a hybrid provision.

The summer holidays are meant to be a time to relax, with children going to camps and taking family vacations together. This year will be very different: no residential camps, and travel is severely curtailed. However, it is essential for us all to realise we need a break.

As adults we need a chance to recharge our batteries, and even more so for our children who have shared our fears and concerns. We may not be able to take them away, but we can be creative and ensure they get a break. Youth groups are planning day camps, and you can even visit the Pajes website which has a special School’s Out section filled with activities and suggestions of days out.

As we enter the summer holiday period, please stay safe, make sure you take a break, have some fun with your family and you may even discover that sometimes even the worst of times can be the best of times.

Rabbi Meyer is executive director of Pajes


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