‘Back to school’ campaign launched to encourage children into classrooms
PUBLISHED: 18:36 25 August 2020 | UPDATED: 18:36 25 August 2020
A campaign has been launched to support Norfolk parents as they prepare children for a full time return to the classroom.
Preparations are underway for Norfolk’s 422 schools to welcome back thousands of children from next month.
Headteachers have been issued with extensive guidelines to put in place a range of extra hygiene and safety measures to support pupils’ safe return, including one-way systems, staggered start times and extra cleaning to help protect children and teachers from coronavirus.
With many parents and children feeling anxious following months of partial school closures, Norfolk County Council has launched a campaign – Let’s Get Back to School – to encourage parents to support their children’s return.
John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Some children won’t have been with their friends and teachers for nearly six months and it’s really important that we are able to give them back some kind of normality and that they have the opportunity to learn and play with their friends.
“We know that the risk of the virus to children is low and schools have taken lots of measures to help protect their children and staff. I would really urge parents to make sure their children get back to school in September so that they can benefit from the professional teaching and support that their schools offer.”
MORE: Schools may have ‘more Victorian’ feel when children return to the classroom
The campaign includes a new webpage - norfolk.gov.uk/backtoschool - with useful information and advice for parents.
It includes information on what school will be like; details on changes to school transport; test and trace measures for schools; advice for children starting school for the first time and pupils’ emotional well-being.
Sarah Shirras, co-chair of Educate Norfolk and headteacher of St William’s Primary School in Thorpe St Andrew, said: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming all of our children back in September and feeling the buzz of school life return. Some things will be a bit different but the fun and joy of being at school again will be very much the same.
“Children need to be back with their friends, playing, learning and having fun. Schools are really well prepared whilst still understanding some parents’ concerns about this fuller return.
“We’ve put lots of systems in place to keep children safe and there are committed staff working across Norfolk’s schools who want to help get children back into their school routine and back to learning.”
Although schools closed to the majority of pupils in March, they remained open for the children of key workers and those children who are vulnerable.
Nursery children and years one and six pupils were able to return from June 1, with some face to face contact for years 10 and 12 following a week later. However for thousands of children September 7 - the date most schools will reopen - will be their first meaningful return in six months.
MORE: 3D virtual tours and videos: how schools are welcoming new pupils amid coronavirus
The prospect has been met with mixed reactions from parents. We asked parents via our social media channels how they felt, and though most felt it was right for their children to be back in lessons, not all were convinced.
Teacher and mum Emma Goodwin said: “As someone who works in a primary school and has two children in high school I can’t wait to get back to a little ‘normality’. We all need this for our mental health.
“Every school has completed risk assessments to keep children and staff safe and I believe they are as safe as they can be.”
Tim Roberts added: “I supported the decision to close schools in the spring, but now is the time for children to get back to school not only for their education but for their mental health as well.
“My daughter has struggled with home schooling as probably most parents and my grandson now misses the structure and socialise of school.”
However Sue Grime said: “The new school year is always a time of illness with so many bugs about. It’s going to be incredibly difficult to manage. I have concerns and reservations, but my kids are desperate to return to school.
“Will have to see how it pans out. Very risky for parents who need to shield or for families with vulnerable adults and teachers and school staff with underlying conditions.”
MORE: What Norfolk schools will be like in September
Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk, said: “The risk to children from coronavirus is low and it is important to get children back to school because we know that a good education can help to remove some of the health inequalities that can develop later in life.
“The most important thing children can do to prevent the spread of infection is to wash their hands regularly and to catch any coughs or sneezes in a tissue, or their elbow. I’d ask parents not to send their children to school if they are ill and to stay at home, isolate and book a test if they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus – a continuous cough, high temperature, or loss of taste and smell. This will help us to prevent the spread of the virus so that we can keep schools open.
“With flu season just around the corner I would also encourage parents with eligible children to get them immunised to help further protect them and their families.”
‘Literally cannot wait!’ - parents’ views on school return
• Jo Savery - “I’m concerned. But I know for my son’s sake he needs to return to school. I am not a teacher and I don’t want my son’s education to suffer. At the same time, if, at any time, me and my husband are not happy, we will remove him from school.”
• Lara Whitbread Yeomans - “Literally cannot wait! She’s 14 and has been out of school three weeks before they closed so she’s been losing her mind. Her confidence has dropped, her attitude has changed, she misses her friends, learning and her teachers!”
• Tonii Elizabeth Hitchings - “Happy that my daughter is going back. Also somewhat anxious if she brings the virus home, but my daughter’s mental health has really suffered and she needs to go back regardless.”
• Amanda Rayner - “Dreading it, mine needs to return as she is entering her final years of high school and missing her friends, however as my husband has been shielding and is still extremely vulnerable. My mum is also receiving cancer treatment so it’s going to be a worrying time for us.”
Tips for get children ready for re-starting school
• Establish usual bedtimes and getting up times.
• Have meals at regular times to ease back into the pattern of the school day.
• Start sorting school uniforms and equipment – it’s worth checking they haven’t grown out of things in advance!
• Talk about what will happen and involve your child in getting the things they’ll need, such as stationary and a lunchbox.
• Practice the journey to school on public transport as it could look and feel very different.
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