Norfolk heads delighted at 'calm' and emotional return of pupils
- Credit: Archant
The buzz of the school playground was a welcome sound for pupils, parents and teachers as thousands returned to the classroom under the government's lockdown easing measures.
Headteachers across the region described the emotions of welcoming back pupils on Monday, with prime minister Boris Johnson praising teachers and parents as the country took its "crucial first step" to freedom.
Penny Sheppard, headteacher of Queen's Hill Primary and Nursery School, in Costessey, said only three children out of 500 were absent due to illness or self-isolating, as pupils returned to full classes rather than pods of 15.
She said: "Pupils and staff were excited to return to what felt like a bit of normality and the children were so happy to see their friends. There was a calm and settled feeling around the school with children enjoying the routines that being in school provide.
"This has been great for the children socially but has meant the teachers have had to think carefully about how to ensure we continue to follow health and safety guidelines whilst also providing an engaging and motivating curriculum for pupils to access irrespective of how much learning they completed during lockdown.
"t was just so lovely to see their grinning faces showing how pleased they were to be back."
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At Heartwood C of E Primary School, in Swaffham, headteacher Emily McMillen said they have focused on children rebuilding connections and friendships as well as staff taking mindfulness and yoga training to help youngsters social, emotional and mental health.
"It was a wonderful first day with mixed emotions. Many of us woke up with butterflies of excitement. There was a lovely buzz about the playground this morning and it was just wonderful to hear a school full of our children again. The children and staff had a lovely day, re-building relationships and connections. Many children left exhausted from school."
At Thomas Bullock CE Primary Academy in Shipdham, pupils shared they loved their lessons as they look forward science week, world book day reading cafes and extra PE sessions.
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Year two pupil Millie, said: "I have had a good day. I was nervous this morning, but I am ok now and excited for tomorrow, as I have seen my friends and enjoyed playing with them.”
Lexi, who is Year 4, said: “I had a fun day and am really pleased to be back. I enjoyed lunchtime playing with my friends. I felt more stressed at home and it felt more relaxed in school.”
Mel Fearns, headteacher of St George's Primary School, in Great Yarmouth, said it was a nice calm return with the number of pupils returning in comparison to last June, "very encouraging".
Mrs Fearns said: "It is a completely different return to the one back in June, anxiety was running high. We had about 25pc of children come back in June, today we were around 97pc. We had no intention of penalising parents whatever anybody said. We learnt alot of lessons last time, it is about coaxing everybody back and give them reassurance."
She said the return before the Easter holidays was right and would allow the government to review the data during the school holiday.
She added: "It enabled us, the children to get ready to come back and the amount of children that have returned is very encouraging. There hasn't been the anxiety in the staff as they have know what's happening."
Secondary school students have praised efforts to make them feel safe on their first day back as they adapt to testing and wearing face coverings in school.
Plamena Mirinova, 17, from Diss, who attends Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form in Norwich, said last week she was nervous about returning.
She said: "I think my school did really well managing our return, I was worried the rules and restrictions would take up lots of time, but it wasn't that long at all.
"It was the best of both worlds between being safe and learning.
"I had a little issue with my mask making my glasses fog up which felt really uncomfortable and made it difficult to concentrate. I'll figure it out!"
Emiley Jones, 15, who attends Wymondham High School, said: "I definitely felt safer than last time, but I think that's because now the pandemic has been going on for so long everyone has become desensitized.
"For those going back I would say to try and stay calm."
Tom Pinnington, head of Notre Dame High School, in Norwich, said it was fantastic to have laughter again and testing was running smoothly.
He said: "Nobody working in a school wishes to see students or staff wearing masks but they are another tool in our arsenal that will support on-site safety, and ultimately help keep our young people in school. It has an inevitable impact on communication but it is a short term step that the community will take in its stride. Staff and students have shown their adaptability many times across the last year, this is another example of that."