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Marking endings in the time of COVID-19

June 8, 2021

We all know the impact COVID-19 has had on our lives and the lives of the children and families that attend our settings. For a second year the way in which we say farewell to the children moving on to Primary School will be celebrated differently. Last year, children went home on March 12, supposedly for 2 weeks, but many never got to return. It is good that this year the children have been back for several months, despite the closure since Christmas for 2 months. But while children are attending and can experience a more typical winding down within their group, the public health advice is to avoid unnecessary visitors to the setting, so the normal graduation ceremonies are still on hold. This can give time to reflect on how we mark endings for children and how to make them meaningful for children and their families.

If your outdoor area is big enough and the numbers of children are small maybe an outdoor ‘ending ceremony’ could be held. From this week the numbers that can gather in outdoor spaces has increased, so it may be possible for a short full group celebration to take place. If your outdoor space is too small, perhaps a number of pod-based celebrations could take place? Restrict numbers to just parents, keep the time short and always observe the public health guidance regarding social distance, sanitising, masks etc. This advice of course applies whatever the size of gathering.

Some settings did drive-by graduations last year. Families were given a time slot, drove to the setting and the child received a memento to mark their time in the setting and after a few words the next family drove up. Is this something that could work for your setting?

Some settings might choose to use Zoom or some other video application. This might not be quite as personal, but it does enable grandparents and other family members to be part of the celebrations. Putting together a slide show of photos and videos depicting each child’s year is a lovely way to mark the end of this part of their learning journey and can be shown on Zoom. This is an advantage of a technology based ‘ending’….it can last a little longer than an in-person party! You can also choose to record it so families can watch it back. If recording it you will need to remind attendees about not sharing it on social media, as not all families will be happy for this to be shared.

To determine what would be safest way to mark the end of the year, a risk assessment can be undertaken based on the specifics of your setting (number of children, size of outdoor area is there shelter/shade available, number of people attending have been vaccinated etc.). The risk assessment should aim to minimise the potential spread of COVID-19.

Whatever way you decide to mark this occasion, remember to keep it child centred, keep it safe and keep it fun! And let us hope that as vaccinations protect us all, next year will be more ‘normal’!

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