'I can be me again' - views from the school gate as children return
- Credit: Archant
There was a buzz of excitement and nervousness as thousands of children returned to school on Monday - many for the first time this year.
Thousands of children and young people returned to the classroom, as part of the first stage of Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown.
It comes after something of a false start when the prime minister announced schools must close after just one day of term on January 4 - days after he insisted they would be safe to open.
But on Monday schools and colleges opened to all pupils, having been allowing the children key workers and vulnerable children into the buildings since the start of the year.
At Thomas Bullock Church of England Academy in Shipdham, 99pc of pupils were in attendance on the first day back.
Vivienne Ingles, 45, who lives in Shipdham, took her 10-year-old daughter Georgia back.
She said: "I'm a bit anxious but excited as well, I know Georgia (her daughter) has really missed her friends and being in the classroom to share her learning with friends.
"The children being in their own classroom bubbles really helps, having the staggered start times and only being allowed to mix with children in their class.
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"It helps relieve the anxiety a bit."
Shannon O'Sullivan, who took over as headteacher of the school in March 2020, said starting just before the global coronavirus pandemic meant she "got to know the children even better".
She said: "Very similarly to how we did it in June and again in September, we have just made sure that all of our staff are updated and we update the risk assessments every week.
"We make sure everybody is fully aware of what we are doing in school. The children are in a routine now as they have been through this three times.
"I took over just before the start of the global pandemic. It's given me an opportunity to really get to know the children and community and to work with my trust and learn from other headteachers within it."
The school, which is part of the Diocese of Norwich Trust, donned bunting, balloons, and even bubbles to help children feel at ease.
Victoria Proctor brought her two children, James, seven, and Ruben, five, back to school for the first time this year.
"I'm feeling really good actually. The school has been amazing with homeschooling but there's nothing like actually being in a classroom for these guys.
"Obviously the pandemic hasn't gone and there are some risks in sending them back, however, I'm really confident in the school's Covid measures.
"Yesterday afternoon Ruben's teacher sent a lovely communication just reassuring us, telling us she was going to keep our little people as safe as they possibly could be."
Ms Proctor added: "I have three children and I obviously have a career as well. Elena hasn't had the time she would have usually had if the boys weren't homeschooling.
"It will be lovely just to have some time with her so I can focus on her development. I also need to catch up on my work.
"It will be good to get that balance back."
The return to school means that single-mum Rianne Mills, 33, who has two boys, Freddie Mills, five, and Henry Cheetham, eight, can return to work.
"This time homeschooling has been absolutely amazing," she said. "The first time we struggled quite a bit and it was all a bit scary.
"I was trying to balance work as well whereas this time, luckily, I have been furloughed and have managed to put everything into the boys.
"I'm a single parent so it has been tricky, but with the way the school has done it this time it has been amazing, they have done live lessons without fail and the kids have been really engaged.
"I'm back to work today and I'm really excited about that, rather than being a mum 24/7 I'll be me at work again which will be so nice."
When Freddie and Henry were asked how they felt about returning to school they said they were feeling "good" and "a bit nervous and a bit happy".