Schools, as we all know, are very important to children’s overall development. Very few children have been directly affected by Covid-19, but many have suffered from its social consequences.
An open letter by UK paediatricians about the return of children to schools recently said, “School is about much more than learning. It is a vital point of contact for public health services, safeguarding and other initiatives. This includes access to mental health support, vaccinations, special therapies, free school meals, physical activity and early years services that help children get the best start in life.” So, getting children safely back into education is now one of the highest priorities for most schools.
As primary schools opened their doors to early years, reception, Year One and Year Six, headteacher Helen Rowe at Dulwich Wood Primary in south London explained how their students and staff were delighted to be back learning in a safe environment.
The school has welcomed back 90 per cent of their Year Six children, and 50 per cent of Year One and reception, after reopening on 8th June. This was in addition to the children of key workers and vulnerable children who were able to attend school throughout the lockdown.
But now as students return, school isn’t quite how they remembered it. Classroom layouts have changed, and class sizes are now only 15 pupils or less in order to maintain distancing and social bubbles.
Before schools reopened staff had a week to look carefully at risk assessments and add anything that they felt was necessary. From the use of hand sanitisers to ensuring that children washed their hands regularly, to making sure that the resources the children were using are clean, Helen and her teaching staff had to carefully discuss what protective measures to implement in order to make sure both children and staff were safe.
However, the message is clear - the school is there to help parents, children and staff, and it's entirely up to the parents to decide what’s best for them.
Helen said, “We sent out a home school agreement initially to parents, to let them know what the expectations were.
“We explained that the children had to come into school with clean clothes each day, that they only needed to bring in a water bottle and they wouldn't be taking anything home with them. They will just come straight in, wash their hands, and get on with the routine exactly as they did before the lockdown.”
Describing the children’s enthusiasm about returning to school, Helen added, “I'm at the gate every morning so it's really lovely to see them come in. They’re all really excited to be back, it's just wonderful.”
However, Helen believes that children and parents feel safe due to the measures the school was taking for the students.
Reception and Year One are now open at Dulwich Wood Primary on a part-time basis. Each group with seven students acts as their social ‘bubble’, which is organised in alphabetical order. Therefore, families are able to come in on the same day if they have children in different year groups.
Meanwhile, Year Six children are preparing to transition to secondary school. They have really benefited from spending time with their teachers and friends to prepare them for what is a big step in their lives.
Helen explained, “We're trying to make it as fun as possible and tailor the learning to their interests as well as looking at the curriculum and ensuring that they're covering the transition work. It’s been really positive for them. Especially in the sense of looking at current events – for example, Black Lives Matter – it’s been really important for them to be able to explore those topics as a group, instead of in isolation.”
TIPS FOR BACK AT SCHOOL
• To reduce congestion at the school gates, only one parent should attend pick-up and drop-off.
• Walk or cycle to school to ease the strain on public transport.
• Practice healthy habits at home to support good hygiene in the classroom.
• Above all continue to reassure your young ones.
Please closely refer to the protective measures in education and childcare settings guidance here:
Please check with your local authority for the latest news on schools opening in your area. This is the UK Government advice for England only.
Photo Credit: Craig Gibson