Schools and pupils mark successful return to the classroom
- Credit: PA
Schools saw a successful return after the summer break and are hopeful it will mark a return to near-normality in the classroom.
Children returned for the first day of term to classrooms where restrictions have been lifted, with face masks requirements, rules on social distancing and class bubbles scrapped.
It follows a year disrupted by coronavirus, with some youngsters having not known anything but lessons under Covid measures.
Some 45pc of Norfolk parents were either ‘very’ or ‘quite’ worried about children heading back to the classroom, our survey ahead of the return found.
Penny Sheppard, headteacher at Queen's Hill Primary School in Costessey, said she had talked through the easing of measures with parents who were “understandably cautious” but that the first day had seen children excited to be back.
“I have been around every class and been greeted with lots of smiley faces. The children are very keen to get back into learning,” she said.
“We are still being very careful, making sure the children are washing their hands, windows are all open, but it is starting to feel more like it used to, which is fantastic.”
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Norfolk’s 422 schools have put in place a range of sensible precautions to mitigate risks from the virus amid concerns of a spike in Covid cases.
Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, is among those to have warned that a rise in transmission is “inevitable” as schools reopen after the summer break.
Sarah Shirras, co-chair of Educate Norfolk and headteacher of St William’s Primary School in Thorpe St Andrew, said: “We are all stepping slightly into the unknown as we have done so many times in the last 18 months, but our staff, children and their families have done a great job at dealing with these unknowns.
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“We are looking forward to a successful and happy new school year.”
Louise Jackson, executive headteacher at Heacham Infants and Juniors and Snettisham Primary School, said: “We are really happy to welcome children back to a much more normal year, we hope. We are full of confidence that we can support our children, but we are still a little bit cautious."
She said classes would remain in bubbles for lunch and play times, but that the schools would have "really lovely communal experiences" in assemblies, which will initially be held outside.
Ms Sheppard said her school was also continuing with some restrictions as they eased pupils back towards a more normal school year.
“We are still doing a hybrid approach to some of our activities, for example we are not having a whole school assembly, we are still doing that virtually, but we are slowly getting the children used to being around more children,” she said.
“We are being very realistic. We are expecting to have a number of Covid cases for both staff and children over the next few weeks, just reflecting what is happening in the country.”
Some secondary schools and colleges have staggered the start of lessons over this first week to manage two in-school Covid tests for students.
Catherine Richards, principal of East Norfolk Sixth Form College, said: “I still think there will be disruption this year. We make a commitment here to make sure every lesson is covered if a teacher is unwell but I think it will remain disruptive.
“It’s going to be another difficult one but one we are ready for.”
And Daniel Elmer, deputy cabinet member for children’s services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We are anticipating that most children will be returning to a new school year which offers them much more of a normal experience with the resumption for many of after school clubs, music lessons, competitive sport, and mixing more freely with other children.
“As we all find ways to live with Covid, we must strike the right balance, taking sensible precautions so that children can continue with their lives and their education.”