Headteacher praises ‘outstanding’ staff as school prepares for return of pupils

PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 May 2020

Pictured last year celebrating sporting success, Heather Madsen, headteacher, and Johnny Lee, PE Leader, at the trophy cabinet in Red Oak Primary School in Lowestoft. Picture: Mick Howes

Pictured last year celebrating sporting success, Heather Madsen, headteacher, and Johnny Lee, PE Leader, at the trophy cabinet in Red Oak Primary School in Lowestoft. Picture: Mick Howes


A headteacher has praised the outstanding efforts of her staff as preparations continue for a return to the classroom.

Red Oak Primary School, Lowestoft

Picture: Nick ButcherRed Oak Primary School, Lowestoft Picture: Nick Butcher

With seven Active Learning Trust primary schools in Waveney having told parents and carers of provisional reopening dates next month, leaders have stressed that schools will only reopen “if the government’s five key tests have been met”.

Since lockdown began, Red Oak Primary in Lowestoft has – like numerous other schools in the town – been partially open to vulnerable children and children of key workers.

As well as this, staff at the school on Southwell Road, Kirkley, have been working tirelessly to hold challenges, assemblies, lessons and daily sports workouts for the children, while also providing work for the pupils and regularly staying in touch with around 500 parents and carers over the course of the past eight weeks.

Now, headteacher Heather Madsen is preparing for the next phase amid the latest government guidance that considers the return to school of children in nursery, reception, year one and year six.

This week, in a letter to parents and carers, the school’s provisional plans for reopening were outlined along with a school re-opening parent survey.

Provisional dates of Wednesday, June 3 for reception children at Red Oak (open Monday through until Thursday) and Thursday, June 4 (year one and year six, open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday) have been proposed.

Mrs Madsen said: “As a headteacher I have never, ever known so much to be placed on us in such a short space of time.

“These are unprecedented times, but I feel our school has done an outstanding job in these circumstances.

“There is an extremely huge amount of work (that has been done) to prepare for the return.”

With year groups to be assigned entrance and exit points to the school’s grounds, along with start and finish times, the children will be grouped into small groups – known as ‘bubbles’ – consisting of no more than 15 youngsters maintaining a two-metre distance.

With class sizes set to be half of the normal size in the respective bubble groups, children and adults will not be able to mix or join other groups and there will be staggered break times and lunch times.

This will mean staggered break times and lunch times, and children will not be able to bring any belongings into school with them, apart from their lunchbox.

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Classrooms will have to be deep cleaned, with everyone at the school having to use hand gel before they enter and leave the site.

Soft furnishings and some furniture is set to be removed from classrooms.

Returning to school

Reflecting on the past eight weeks in lockdown, and looking ahead, Mrs Madsen said: “We are working for the best outcomes for our children at Red Oak.

“The staff have been teaching things across the board despite the lockdown – they have done an extensive amount of work as well as doing online training, safeguarding, first aid workshops, Zoom meetings and much more.

“We have been in touch with the children and we’ve had contact with all the families - with individual phone calls to around 500.

“We have had some lovely, really humbling emails from parents.”

After informing parents and carers of the school’s provisional intentions, along with the questionnaire that was sent out on Monday, by Tuesday afternoon the school had received 160 responses.

Mrs Madsen said: “Of that 160, 65 would be eligible for a space and 15 have said yes to a place.”

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