The Edinburgh school closures have disrupted children’s lives and they need understanding and care, says Rev Gayle JA Taylor
As a minister, school chaplain and trained counsellor working in four schools, I spend much of my time giving people opportunities to think, speak and reflect on the relationships and places that help form their sense of belonging and identity.
The closure of school buildings in Edinburgh this week has affected everyone in those communities, not just practically but also emotionally. Without our familiar community home, we feel displaced, disrupted and disorientated.
Of course, a change of scene and circumstance can be good for us, but continuing uncertainty about “when will things get back to normal, when will I feel at home again” starts to erode our sense of confidence and wellbeing.
Schools are not just part of our community; they are communities in themselves where young people develop relationships with their peers and with positive adults who care about them.
How can our school communities gather, check in and take strength from one another when we are spread out across the city and out of touch with our usual ways of being together?
We’re doing our best with phone calls, emails and texts, to hear what’s going on with our colleagues, pupils and friends. Next week I’m doing an assembly “on the road” at two schools I’ve never been to so that I can touch base with groups of our pupils who are there.
A teacher from Braidburn School – for nursery, primary and secondary pupils who have special needs – told me in frustration that the council and the builders gave her an hour to go into the building with a hard hat and high visibility vest to find any resources she needed.
“They don’t understand Gayle” she said. “For us to get anywhere near the amount of resources we need for our pupils it would take about 30 of us three hours”.
She said it. What our school communities need most now is a deeper level of understanding.
As a chaplain I always have my eye on people’s mental health and emotional and spiritual wellbeing. This is a time when good relationships count. My job as a chaplain is to listen well, be alongside people as things change, and to show my interest and care. mums and dads, grans and grandpas, youth leaders and neighbours all do that well too, so in these challenging days they too can make all the difference.
Rev Gayle JA Taylor is Associate Minister (Children and Youth) at Colinton Parish Church