‘Children needed to be back in class’ - Parents welcome return to school
PUBLISHED: 11:36 07 September 2020 | UPDATED: 17:08 07 September 2020
It’s not quite school as they know it but thousands of children have returned to the classroom for the start of the school year.
For the majority of pupils, it is the first time they have been in lessons for six months after school closures and weeks of home-schooling.
Monday marked a pivotal moment for pupils, teachers, school staff and parents as all pupils returned for the start of the autumn term.
Old Buckenham High School, where a staff member has tested positive for coronavirus, was the only one of Norfolk’s 422 schools not to open, though some schools have staggered the re-opening to allow different years back on different days this week.
MORE: Back to school - but how will Norfolk children catch up?
For most, the sound of the morning school bell will be a welcome sign of life starting to return to some form of normality.
Parents expressed some anxiety but said it was a welcome step for their children to be back learning.
Andy and Sarah Warnes were dropping off daughters Evelyn, five and a half, and Eleanor, three, at St Williams Primary and Nursery in Thorpe St Andrew.
Me Warnes said: “They have got a bit stir-crazy with us. Evelyn is very keen to get back and to see her friends.
“The school has been brilliant. With some of the stories we have heard from other schools, these guys have been fantastic. Other parents we have spoken to have largely been reassured too.
“Homeschooling was really tough to be honest. We both work full-time so it was difficult. It was a constant battle of being a full-time parent and doing a job, having that constant argument with yourself.”
Ali Mears, whose daughter Isla was starting reception, while her sister Lucy, 12, was returning to Thorpe St Andrew High School, said: “Isla is starting reception so we didn’t come back to nursery in June because Lucy is in high school so we thought we’d keep them both off.
“I’m really comfortable with all the measures they are doing. I don’t have any worries, I have faith in the school. We’ve had emails regularly. I can’t fault it. They have done so well.”
She was similarly reassured by measures at Thorpe St Andrew High School. “Each year group is separated into their own schools so it is well organised,” she added.
MORE: Four in 10 Norfolk parents still have back to school worries, EDP survey finds
Schools have put in extra hygiene and safety measures, including one-way systems, staggered start times and extra cleaning to help protect children and teachers from coronavirus.
Gavin Lloyd, who was dropping off daughter Elsie, four, said: “I haven’t got any concerns really. The school has put measures in place to minimise it. We just have to send them in and see how it goes really.
“It’s good that they are getting back to school, a bit of routine back and back on track for learning. She came to nursery here and has been missing all her friends.”
Dropping off her daughter Nevaeh, four, Maddie Baker said: “We were really reassured with everything the school has done and even when we did ask about play sessions with things like hand sanitising and social distancing, obviously they are young kids they are not going to keep their distance all the time, we were really reassured.
“I have seen the videos the school put out with measures like the extra sinks and classrooms being separate and everything and I’m happy. She is nervous but she is really excited too.”
Helena Mellor, with Lily, year one, and Sofia, year three, added: “You cannot predict what is going to happen but I’m really happy they are back in school.”
At Hillcrest Primary School in Downham Market, Charlie Barnard, a NHS mental health worker, who had her children Dylan, year three, and Maxwell, reception, return today, said: “I’m happy about them going back, it feels really safe.
“I feel partly sad as I spent a lot of good time with them but as I’ve been working from home as a key worker I’m also happy as I can do my job.”
Fellow parent Danielle Kent said: “I was really ready for them to go back. Obviously nervous and apprehensive but we came in for taster days and were quite happy with how safe and happy they were.
“It’s the social side that’s important for them as well. We can only do our best at home, we’re not teachers but we’ve had a lot of fun with it.
“The school has put enough hard work in and we put our trust in what they do.”
Lisa English added: “I hated bringing them back but I know they needed it. School is important and happy for them to be back.
“I’m going to be honest, we didn’t do as much school but we’ve had fun. I think it’s made parents appreciate teachers a lot more.”
Mark Pilkington, a resuscitation officer for the NHS, said: “As a key worker my daughter came to school during lockdown so I wasn’t worried as everyone was being careful but now it could potentially flare-up again.
“I was excited about my daughter coming back but nervous as well, she hadn’t seen the majority of her friends since lockdown so it was causing her a lot of anxiety and I’m sure that was the case for other parents and children.”
His eight-year-old daughter, Jasmine, said she had a “good day” and was happy to be back.
The majority of schools across England saw pupils return last week and headteachers have reported high attendance.
Early indications from a poll, by the school leaders union’ NAHT, suggest around nine in ten (92pc) schools have had more than 80pc of pupils attend.
MORE: Can you be fined for refusing to send your child back to school?
St Williams Primary headteacher Sarah Shirras said: “We have had a couple of families who have expressed concerns and had some quite specific questions around our hygiene controls.
“If there are medical reasons we can authorise it but if there aren’t we are taking a softly approach of trying to encourage and support and get people back to school in the medium and long term.
“The last thing we want to do is push anyone in making a decision when they are anxious, we’d rather work with them.
“It is more people who chose to self-isolate and have been very cut off from the big wide world and this is a big step.
“We have suggested they can come and visit when the children aren’t here or we could give them feedback on how today has gone, just giving them every encouragement to come back.”
Pupils were back at SET Beccles School last week. Heidi Philpott, head of school, said: “Students have settled in well to their new routines and the necessary safety measures.
“It’s been really enjoyable to see all of our students here again and to meet the new year sevens. We feel confident we can offer them all the full curriculum while ensuring student and staff safety.”
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