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Children ‘rising to the challenge’ of return to school

PUBLISHED: 10:45 08 June 2020 | UPDATED: 10:54 08 June 2020

Matthew Try, head at Hillcrest Prmary School, Downham Market  Picture: Ian Burt

Matthew Try, head at Hillcrest Prmary School, Downham Market Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

Children are rising to the challenge of social distancing as they make a phased return to school, says the head of a large primary.

The new layout in a reception class at Hillcrest Primary School. Picture: Matthew TryThe new layout in a reception class at Hillcrest Primary School. Picture: Matthew Try

Matthew Try, head at 500-pupil Hillcrest Primary School, at Downham Market, said staff were “hugely impressed” with pupils’ ability to adapt.

Attendance hovered between 29 and 31pc last week, with most parents opting to keep their children at home. Mr Try said he expected attendance to improve.

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He added: “Parents responded well to the one-way system around the outside of the school that, despite causing them to endure a hike around the outside of the entire building, did mean that there was a single flow of traffic that attempted to avoid crossed paths and interactions that compromised social distancing.

Hillcrest Primary School in Downham Market has put in place floor markings in its corridors in light of social distancing guidelines. Picture: Matthew TryHillcrest Primary School in Downham Market has put in place floor markings in its corridors in light of social distancing guidelines. Picture: Matthew Try

“The staggered start and finish times have also meant a steady stream of parents and children over an hour long period at the start and end of each day has prevented there from any feeling of overcrowding or being rushed around the site.

“Break times, as expected, have been the most challenging times but once again the children rose to the challenge and have remembered to maintain a distance between one another.”

Each bubble class has been issued with a bag of sports equipment that children can play with at break and lunch. Equipment is sanitised at the end of lunch and swapped for equipment that develops a different sports skill the following day.

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“The children have also been using their imaginations to invent their own socially distanced games,” said Mr Try. “Children’s ability to adapt under challenging circumstances should never be underestimated.”

Parents drop children off at a yellow and black taped line which is two metres from the classroom door. Face-to-face meetings between parents and teachers have been replaced by e-mail and telephone meetings.

Mr Try said: “Even though school edged one small step closer to normality this week, the reality is that each Reception and Year One child is only getting two days of education per week whilst our Year Sixes get four days per week.

“Although it will support the children’s mental health to see others and to begin socialising again, the academic impact of the return is only going to be minimal with a restricted curriculum and limited time for learning in operation before schools close in July.

“The complicated organisation required for small bubbles of Reception, Year One and Year Six children would be far more difficult to replicate more widely if primary schools were asked to take all year groups back. Hillcrest has already informed its parents that we will not be opening to other year groups on June 22 even if it is requested of schools by the government.

“Despite the children’s pleasing response to the new environment and proving that we could make it work even if we had our own reservations, the big unknown and constant source of worry for all teachers is, what will the impact of the return to school and general relaxation of the lockdown be on the progress of the virus?”


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