Thursday, 22 April 2021

At last, everyone’s happy as pupils return to school

At last, everyone’s happy as pupils return to school

PUPILS returned to school on Monday after three months of home learning.

Children in all year groups were able to go back under the first stage of the Government’s easing of lockdown restrictions.

Schools were forced to close on January 5 to all pupils except for the children of key workers and those deemed vulnerable.

Others have been learning from home via virtual lessons.

Parents were excited to take their children back to Badgemore Primary School in Hop Gardens, Henley.

Their arrival times were staggered according to their classroom bubbles to ensure parents and teachers did not interact in large numbers.

Every pupil had to use hand sanitiser before entering the building.

Zerrin Morris, who recently moved to Henley from Amsterdam, was “ecstatic” to be dropping off her son, Harry, six.

She said: “I was more concerned about keeping him at home as he was missing the school interactions. As amazing as the Zoom lessons were, it doesn’t replace socialisation.”

Harry said he was excited to be able to see his friends again.

He said: “I recently moved here and was a bit shy but now I am excited and happy because I know everyone.”

Paul Whitehouse, who dropped off his daughter, Gracie-May, six, said: “With the measures the school has put in place I’m very comfortable sending her back to school.

“The socialisation that children get in school is much-needed after months of Zoom lessons.”

Philippa Excell, who was dropping off her daughter, Minnie, eight, said: “We’re really happy. The school has done lots to make us parents feel comfortable and to keep the kids safe.

“Minnie needs the socialisation you can only get from school as it’s really important.”

Headteacher Tim Hoskins said: “We’re excited to have everyone back and we’ve been preparing for it properly for two weeks. We’ve made some more improvements from last time. It’s great to see the children want to be back.”

Pupils at Rupert House School in Bell Street marked their return with a day of activities to ease them back into school life.

Headteacher Nick Armitage said: “We were incredibly excited about welcoming the children back to school.

“I have been so impressed by the enthusiastic approach and the hard work of all our children and the exemplary educational provision our staff have delivered during this latest period of lockdown.

“That said, we are very mindful of the impact lockdown has had on everyone’s wellbeing and so, in recognition of this and in celebration of being able to be back together as one school community, we held a special reunion day. This was designed for all of us — pupils and teachers alike — to readjust to our school environment, rekindle our friendships and lessen any anxieties some may be feeling about coming back to school.

“Our reunion day included a whole host of fun activities and events, organised by our dedicated pastoral team, including planting sunflower seeds and a fruit tree, doing some craft activities and creating time capsules to name a few.

“Primarily, though, it was an opportunity for our school community to celebrate being back together again.”

Tim Coulson, headteacher of Valley Road Primary School, said: “It has been fantastic having all the children back.

“It ran very smoothly because this is just the new normal for children — they are coming back into a situation with restrictions that they are used to.

“It’ll be absolutely fine having everyone back and let’s hope we’ll be back for good. We want the children to feel happy inside themselves as their mental health is the most important thing.

“We also want to say how grateful we are to the parents for doing such a sterling job with their children while learning from home.” Rob Harmer, head of St Mary’s School in St Andrew’s Road, said: “We have really missed having the children in school and it has been such a delight to welcome them all back.

“While our remote teaching ensured that their learning continued throughout lockdown, we know that the children have missed being here and learning in the classroom.

“The playground has been filled with the chatter of friends catching up and it has been wonderful to see PE lessons in full swing again.

“The children have said that their favourite thing about being back is the opportunity to see their friends and we know how important that social interaction is for their wellbeing.

“For our year 6 children, this was their first chance to celebrate their fantastic success in gaining places at their first choice of senior schools together and the opportunity to talk excitedly about future plans.

“We have stringent health and safety procedures in place to ensure that we are minimising the risk to our school community and our staff are following the government protocol with bi-weekly covid tests.

“Staff are looking forward to a productive few weeks before we break up for Easter and we very much hope that when we return at the beginning of the summer term the children will be able to resume competitive sports fixtures and all of the other extra-curricular activities that they enjoy.”

Secondary school students had to wait a little bit longer to return.

The Government advised schools to operate a phased return with year groups returning on different days.

Years 11 and 13, the exam years, were prioritised. The exams will not be going ahead in the summer and instead, students will receive grades based on teacher assessments.

Secondary school students and staff have to wear masks inside the school as well as being offered voluntary onsite and at home covid tests.

The rules will be reviewed during the Easter break.

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