‘It’ll be very different’ - inside one school as it gets ready to reopen
PUBLISHED: 08:14 23 May 2020 | UPDATED: 08:14 23 May 2020
While politicians and unions argue over when schools should start again, headteachers like Nick Read have been busy.
His school, Worstead Primary, with its small Victorian rooms and narrow corridor faces some extra challenges when it comes to social distancing.
The government wants schools to start to reopen on June 1 for reception, year one and year six pupils, but some councils and schools have refused, saying it is not safe.
At Worstead, Mr Read said he only has space to let around 30 of his 109 pupils back from the week of June 8.
He has opted to prioritise year six, alongside children of key workers.
“It is very important for year six to get them back,” he added.
“They were the most upset when we had to close up as they thought they might not be back before they start high school.
“We are really pleased that we think we can make it work. We know parents support this.”
MORE: Seven out of 10 parents in survey believe schools should reopen in September
When he surveyed parents, 65pc said they were happy to send year six back, but when it came to reception children it was the opposite.
“It makes no sense to staff and governors to get reception back first,” he said.
“They are all about learning through play, physical activity, touching and sharing which they won’t be able to do.
“The government’s plan (of getting reception back first) just isn’t sensible for us. It would be miserable for the youngest children.
“I think when the government draws up these plans it imagines schools as big places with wide corridors.
“Other small schools will have the same issues as us and there are a lot of them in Norfolk.
“There is just no way we can safely get every child back before the summer holidays at the moment, but the situation is very fluid.”
He said staff were happy to come back if they could make the school safe.
Mr Read added: “The starting point for me has been - what is the maximum number I can safely get in the school?
“We think with all the safety measures in place we can have back 30 of the 109 children from the week of June 8, subject to further risk assessment and the arrival of equipment we have ordered.”
The council has supplied PPE, while he is awaiting deliveries of hand sanitiser.
He has also bought airport barriers to keep children apart in the playground.
The school has room for five to eight children in each classroom if they sit at desks two metres apart.
MORE: 10 of the questions teachers are being urged to ask before schools reopen
They will be split into different “bubbles” and children and teachers in those bubbles will not have contact.
The building will also be divided into different sections for each bubble, while start and finish times will be staggered, Mr Read said.
And he warned schools would be “very different” when they reopen to all pupils.
“We are now thinking about a whole new curriculum, a recovery curriculum,” he said.
“We will need to renormalise the children.
“They won’t be able to share things anymore like books and the only thing they can bring into school is their packed lunch.
“Part of the learning for them is all about sharing, now we will need to tell them the opposite.”
Then there is the challenge of making sure children catch up on lessons, while also looking after their mental health.
“Parents have contacted me saying they have concerns about their children’s mental health,” he said.
“The isolation from friends is the hardest part.
“They are also concerned that their children will fall behind. I have sent them letters reassuring them that it’ll be okay.”
And if the worst does happen, and positive cases of coronavirus are found, Mr Read said the school will have protocols in place.
On Wednesday, Peterhouse Primary Academy, in Gorleston, closed for a deep clean after the keyworker parent of one child tested positive for coronavirus but said it will reopen again when safe.
• For updates, you can join our Facebook page here.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the yellow box below for details.