Guest Blog from Jo Watson
The thing I’ve really missed this year (more than any of the other million things I’ve missed/missed out on thanks to that which shall not be named), is the fact that lockdown restrictions, social distancing, and Covid ‘security’ have meant that I haven’t been able to go into my daughter’s nursery for the Christmas showcase.
Those of you with little ones past or present will be familiar with such an event. It’s basically when you visit the nursery after hours (actually that sounds wrong) and you get to look at all the brilliantly exciting rooms where your kids learn and play, and marvel at all the festive displays the little ones have put together with an abundance of glitter and fairy lights. You invariably do this whilst you throw a couple of quid in a festive basket to partake in the raffle/ tombola/ ‘guess the name of the giant dog’ competition (sore point for me – of course we won the damn thing last year). Magical.
A showcase at any time of year is a lovely event, because not only are nurseries far nicer places when the kids aren’t actually there, but because you get to see how your little one spends their day. Oh, and if it’s a Christmas event, you usually get a glass of mulled wine or three on arrival. Naughty.
Not this year, though, “Due to blah blah blah…”
It made me think, though, that there’ll be parents whose kids have started with early years education this year, who have NEVER set foot in their child’s nursery for even so much as a visit or induction. They literally have no idea what the room is like that they’re sending their child to spend 10 hours of their day in, or how and where their child will be cared for, or what the environment even really feels like. It’s really quite upsetting.
And then I started thinking what it’s like in general when we send our kids to a new learning environment or school. Even without Covid and its many (often unfathomable) restrictions, getting to look around a new school – in the case of an age-related milestone, educational transition, or a move to a new area – is key for our wellbeing and peace of mind. It’s worrying for us as parents, so god knows how our kids are feeling.
Will they get lost?
Will they understand where to go for different things?
Will they have difficulty accessing, understanding or making best use of the equipment and facilities in each room or area?
Given all the other changes and challenges our children will face emotionally, socially and educationally, being anxious about where it is they’re physically going to be attending really shouldn’t be on their list of worries and woes. Oh, and no, a couple of unrealistically tidy photos on a website doesn’t quite cut it – especially for children with additional or sensory needs, disabilities, or access difficulties.
This is why I bloody love what my clients, Anthony and Adam, are doing. They create Virtual Tours under the banner of IROAM, and although they initially caught my eye owing to the tour they created for the Southampton Children’s Hospital Neo-Natal unit (a massive comfort and peace of mind to new parents with seriously ill babies), I love that their actual focus for their good work is schools, nurseries and colleges.
Other than being a bit of a ditz, I have no access issues, sensory impairments, or physical difficulties. And I’m in my 30s. But, whenever I visit a school for work (something I did a lot of in my career in education), I genuinely dreaded my first visits.
Where do I go?
How do I even get inside the building?
Why does every corridor look the same?
Honestly, going to one school in Rochdale to give a frankly unmotivational speech last year, I felt like I needed a fucking degree in Crystal maze to get inside the damn place.
I think all of this fear and anxiety harks back to the time when I was seven and I got trapped inside the cleaning cupboard of church hall in Wigan, after trying to find the room for my Grade One piano exam. Yep, I was that nervous that I didn’t automatically head to the room with the fucking piano music coming from it. Story for another time, though.
So, I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re working in a school, nursery or college and you think that providing a cracking and ridiculously simple to use Virtual Tour for your students, families and visitors could be the way to set you apart, contact Adam and Anthony. Or, if you’re the parent of a child attending a nursery, primary or secondary school, and you think this is a bloody brilliant idea for places of learning and education to be adopting, contact your chosen school and tell them to look up those same two gentlemen.
Even the Government have said recently that schools should be making use of Virtual Tours to promote and showcase their offerings. I think it’s the first sensible suggestion they’ve had all year in relation to education, so I’d be inclined to enjoy it.
Have a look at iRoam’s website and see what these guys do. Bloody brilliant. And you don’t even have to get dressed.