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Schools may have ‘more Victorian’ feel when children return to the classroom

PUBLISHED: 06:00 24 August 2020 | UPDATED: 14:50 24 August 2020

The teachers strike rally at Chapelfield Gardens. Scott Lyons, Norfolk NUT secretary. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The teachers strike rally at Chapelfield Gardens. Scott Lyons, Norfolk NUT secretary. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Children going back to schools may be faced with a more “Victorian” set-up as educators work hard to make sure pupils are kept safe during the return.

Staged picture of children in a classroom. Picture JackF/iStockphotoStaged picture of children in a classroom. Picture JackF/iStockphoto

With the new academic year looming, some children and parents may be feel anxious about the return, which will see schools working at full capacity for the first time in several months.

And while Scott Lyons, district secretary of the National Education Union in Norfolk, has said there is an overall positive feel about the return, some children may be greeted with something of a “shock to the system”, as schools look to make sure they are run in a Covid-secure way.

He said: “I think the majority of teachers want to get back into schools now and for it to be safe. I think there’s now a very different feeling, particularly in Norfolk which is a far cry away from places like Leicester, Manchester and Oldham for infection rates.

“However, I think we may well see more of a Victorian-style classroom used with pupils sitting in rows and facing the front more and more - particularly from key stage two onwards. This might be slightly tougher with early years and Reception children.”

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty Picture: Leon Neal/PA WireChief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty Picture: Leon Neal/PA Wire

Mr Lyons said that while some union members, particularly those who are pregnant, had some nerves about returning to full classrooms, largely teachers in the region are keen to return to as close to normal as possible.

Meanwhile, he urged parents feeling anxious about the new school year to speak to their schools as soon as possible to allay their fears.

He said: “I would urge any parent who is nervous to get in touch with schools as soon as possible and have those conversations now.

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“I would expect schools to be reluctant to fine parents who don’t want to send their children in, but will be under pressure from the government to get as many children back as they can. In reality, schools know how important relationships are with parents and will give as much lenience as they can.

“I suspect for some children it may well feel like a shock to the system to be back, particularly those who haven’t been going in, and parents and children will have to manage their expectations.”

His comments come after a report from the country’s chief medical officers warned that missing out on education would have a far greater long term impact on children than the risk of Covid-19.

They said “very few, if any” children and teenagers would come to long-term harm from the virus solely by attending school, while there was a “certainty” of harm from now returning.

Professor Chris Whitty, (left), the country’s chief medical officer, said there was “clear” evidence that the chances of children dying from Covid were “incredibly small” and they were less likely to get severe illnesses and end up in hospital due to the virus.

“The reason that is important to lay out is the chances of children catching Covid and then getting long-term serious problems as a result of it, solely due to going to school are incredibly small,” Prof Whitty said. “They’re not zero, but they’re incredibly small.

“The chances of many children being damaged by not going to school are incredibly clear and therefore the balance of risk is very strongly in favour of children going to school because many more are likely to be harmed by not going than harmed by going, even during this pandemic.”

Some parents though still remain anxious about the new school year, among them 30-year-old Lowestoft mum Nasima Begun, whose two children Amelia and Hannah set to attend different schools – despite being just one school year apart.

She said: “With the dangers of Covid-19, I am feeling extremely anxious about doing two separate school drop-offs and pick-ups if my daughters go to different schools. It would be a lot safer for myself, my children and others to reduce any possible spread by having them both attend the same school.”

While some parents on social media described worry, others shared feeling of excitement and relief.


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