Welcome back to my wee counselling corner in a rural cluster of schools in Dumfries and Galloway.

I suppose the first thing to let you know is, while school is open for educational support of vulnerable pupils and children of key workers, I am not in the building. Quite rightly, with this new lockdown, only essential staff are allowed inside.

Luckily for me, when I started back in August, I felt it was necessary to learn from March’s experience of school stopping on a day when I wasn’t working. I mean, how dare it! Didn’t it know I wasn’t prepared?

Loss of connection

While teachers were scrambling to upgrade their PowerPoint skills and master Teams, most young people were in holiday mode and my school clients had gone from 12 to one. I am a contracted counsellor; I am not staff. But I have been there four years. My sense of loss of connection to school and those who use it, was deep. I felt helpless.

So, I hear you say, what did you do this time Alison?

What would suit them best

Well, I fell back on my retail training all those years ago, I made a Business Continuity Plan.

Or in counsellor speak, I included in my contracting a new section about what the pupils wanted to do in the event of another forced time away from school. It is quite simply asking them, what would suit them best – with the opportunity to change at any point.

The lockdown in late December was a bit of a curve ball. You see our schools were already on holiday. Christmas plans changed, and we went into that last week knowing we wouldn’t be coming back in January. Again, on a day I wasn’t working!!

Was I worried? Not a jot! This time I knew how easy it would be to get in touch with the pupils I am supporting and work out the mechanics of appointments.

Marked differences

There are marked differences between March and now. School having online learning up and ready for the pupils for remote accessing on the set date. Me having a full diary, supporting through a range of online ways. The pupils had realised the change to their routine brings about challenges and some of them wanted help.

Thrive through the closures

What we have adapted from all our experience of 2020 is making us the best version of ourselves. Not being at school is something we have lived through. The goal this time is to thrive through the closures. Whether it is self-isolating or various shades of lockdown, we are learning we do not need to stop our lives, merely alter slightly.

This, together with the shining hope of the vaccinations, life as we knew it may return. The big question is, how much of pre-covid life do we want back? why settle for life as it was...let's make it better!