Schools continue to adapt to ‘new normal’ after reopening
PUBLISHED: 13:35 03 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:35 03 June 2020
Schools in Suffolk have continued to adapt to the “new normal” after reopening to more children this week as part of eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Primaries were allowed to welcome back reception, year-one and year-six children from Monday, June 1, along with children of key workers who have been at school throughout the lockdown.
However, life is very different for the pupils who are returning - with strict social distancing measures meaning huge changes to classrooms, playgrounds and activities.
The Unity Schools Partnership welcomed back more than 800 children as 15 of its primary schools across Suffolk opened to the priority year groups.
Woodhall Primary, in Sudbury, had already pubished a video showing how life would be different - including one-way walking routes around the schools, markings showing pupils where to stand in the playground and spaced-out desks in classrooms.
Vicky Doherty, headteacher at Kedington Primary Academy, said teachers “established new procedures and routines in a fun way”, adding: “We focused on making sure children felt really welcome and had a positive start.”
She said it had been a “massive piece of work to get everything ready in the building, supporting the children to be prepared to come back, planning teaching and learning within the restrictions”, as well as “making sure everyone knows how everything will work and how to be safe”.
Staff had worked through the half-term break to make sure things were ready.
However, she said: “Parents reported that children were really excited and had kept asking how many more days before they could come back.”
Fiona-Catherine Thompson, deputy headteacher at Westfield Primary Academy in Haverhill, said: “It was lovely to see the children’s smiles as they arrived.”
After an assembly on Zoom about kindness, she said: “Children will spend this week learning our ‘new normal’ routines around handwashing and social distancing,
“We are also planning transitioning activities for our year-six pupils as they prepare for secondary school.”
‘Smiles on children’s faces’
Ben Jeffery, headteacher at Glemsford Primary Academy, said: “The first day went brilliant. Everyone was feeling nervous but thanks to all the hard work and preparation things went really smoothly.
“Parents were very understanding and several sent lovely supportive messages saying how staff really put their minds at ease.
“A particular highlight was seeing the smiles on children’s faces at the end of the day when they told their parents what a great day they had.
“Staff have been amazing. They have worked tirelessly and have always been positive and looked for solutions. They have gone above and beyond over the past three months and I am incredibly proud of them.”
At Laureate Primary Academy in Newmarket, headteacher David Perkins said: “Our focus was on giving the children time to get used to the new arrangements, re-establishing friendships and then gradually introducing routines and structure to make things feel as normal as possible.”
‘School doesn’t look the same’
Pipers Vale Primary, in Ipswich - run by the Paradigm Trust - has created ‘pods’ of up to 15 children who move around the school together and don’t mix with other pods to ensure distancing.
Zones have been laid out for different groups of children and teachers and facilities such as toilets have been portioned off so pods don’t share.
Principal Kimberly Morton believes welcoming more young people back is the right thing to do.
“Children need structure and parents are struggling and quite rightly as they aren’t educators and they do find it difficult at home,” she said.
Clare Flintoff, chief executive officer for ASSET Education - which runs several primary schools in Ipswich - said earlier this week: “All of the hard work over half term preparing the school sites has paid off and our stringent safety practices are in place making sure that it is as safe as possible for our children and staff.
“School doesn’t look the same as it did before lockdown and it will be a very different experience, but the key priority at present is safety.”
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