This post was contributed by Julian Briscoe, Information and E-Learning Assistant (Graduate Trainee) at South Thames Colleges Group.
When we went into a second lockdown, naturally we were all concerned. However, there was one group that had stronger feelings than most – parents.
On top of the stresses of going back into lockdown and readjusting to working from home full-time, many parents were feeling that they were fighting a losing battle: With a lack of childcare options, mental health steadily falling, and the ever-present spectre of questionable broadband connections, tensions were rising in the home.
The Kids Hub was an idea that sprang out of necessity – how were staff with young children expected to juggle working from home with both childcare and home schooling? The solution: We would create a weekly release of curated content, specifically picked (and kid-tested!) to occupy and educate those children. The idea was that this would allow their parents to better concentrate on their work, without the worry that their kids might get bored and wreak havoc around the home, or worse – that their learning would stagnate and they would fall behind once schools were open again.
Not that we were planning to replace the curriculum – schools had learnt a lot from the first lockdown in terms of what was feasible with distance-learning, and were far better equipped to assist their students (and their parents in turn) with the struggles of learning from home. We did however want to supplement their learning as best as possible.
The first few tentative steps in developing the hub were full of creativity, with the team scouring the furthest corners of the internet for interesting videos, activities, books, and everything in-between. We realised, however, that what a pre-schooler deems to be ‘fun and interesting’ is unlikely to be enjoyed by a young teenager (and vice versa). Therefore, we decided to narrow our scope. The Kids Hub would be tailored to Key Stages 1 and 2 (ages 5-11), the rationale being that older children would likely be studying for qualifications and could be better trusted to work under their own steam. Either way, we aimed to find engaging resources and activities that did not require a high amount of adult supervision, which would allow the child to learn independently, and the parent to work without worry.
With the new, more refined version of the Hub in mind, we started curating the content. Resources were shared with each other, discussed, tested at home by those with children in the target demographic, and eventually the best were put forward for the first weekly release. To make the hub easier to navigate (and for children to quickly hone in on the subjects they were especially interested in) the resources were grouped into categories such as Virtual School Trips with interactive digital tours or webcam feeds, and Getting Creative with arts and crafts guides. This also helped us to make sure that we weren’t putting up too many of the same kind of resources each week, and forced us to really branch out when looking for engaging content. Finally, we published the page, and waited for the feedback to start coming in.
Various improvements were suggested by adults and children alike, some that were integrated into the Hub (such as adding links to free audiobooks), and some that were not (such as creating a cartoon mascot). Generally, we wanted the Hub to have a sense of community, and adding a section where we could put a spotlight on some of the fantastic art created by children who used the Hub, as well as featuring recommendations of other resources from parents, was well received.
In short, the impact the Hub had, and the goal we set out to achieve, can be summed up by this feedback we received:
“This is so impressive and it’s really nice that your team have put so much thought into something that will really help the parenting struggle during lockdown, even though it isn’t strictly a ‘college problem’.”
We would like to thank everyone for their contributions and feedback.