Rethinking the school gate

Photo: iStock.com/andrewmedina

The drastic changes needed for socially-distanced pick up and drop off has had unintended positive consequences, explains Susan McLean of Kitebrook Preparatory School. Is it time to rethink the school gate permanently?

It is the same for so many schools across the country. Morning drop off: children clinging to their parents with tears in their eyes whilst cars vie for a place to park. Afternoon pick up: parents chatting at the school gates, waiting for their child to emerge, and with cars jammed into the car park. But what if it was different?

The impact of COVID-19 has been felt in all areas of school life, but none more than the transformation of school gate etiquette. This time, for the better. The start of the overhaul at my own school was born out of necessity. We had to rapidly devise a solution that ensured our children and families were still distancing during the morning drop off and afternoon collection. Designated arrival and departure spots, more akin to ordering fast food in a drive-through restaurant, has transformed any car park issues we may have thought we had.

More importantly, I have watched the children’s confidence soar. This got me thinking. Are we doing our children a disservice by allowing parents to walk them up to the school gates? It is what we have always done – the ‘norm’. But while we must ensure a balance between fostering a child’s growth in independence and allowing the parents to feel part of school life, we have certainly been able to capitalise on the need for social distancing as a way to develop our pupils’ autonomy. In amazement, I have seen all of our children bound out of their car, bags in hand, and set off with purpose to their classroom.

Little ones, who previously, sometimes months into a term, would still get upset at leaving their parents, now grinning as they run up to their teacher, ready to start their morning with such positivity. We have eradicated the shy child who clings to Mummy and, instead, created organised, self-sufficient individuals. And that is the real benefit. They are beginning their day, not bereft, but happy, smiling, and enthusiastic. Their jubilant energy positively radiates as they set about to learn, ensuring they are at their most productive. That positivity then spreads into the school’s atmosphere, enhancing all temperaments, and ultimately, our well-being.

Susan McLean is Headmistress of Kitebrook Preparatory School, Gloucestershire.