How schools welcomed children back after lockdown
HEAD teachers at schools in villages across the Frome Valley area say the return to school has gone smoothly.
Ahead of the first day back on March 8, pupils experienced a mix of emotions after so many weeks of home learning with their parents.
Mike Riches, Executive Head teacher at Iron Acton Primary said: “Some were a bit nervous before arriving but as soon as they were in they were fine.
"When we asked them how it felt to be back on the first day they appeared overjoyed and reported that they were thrilled; they also said they didn’t have any worries at all about being back.”
Mr Riches acknowledged the role that parents have had to play, saying: “Families have been so supportive and understanding of the difficulties faced over recent weeks and we are so grateful to them all for doing such a significant amount of work with the children during lockdown.”
Frampton Cotterell Primary head teacher Pete Barnard at said: “We’ve been delighted with how everyone has returned so positively. Children, parents and staff have all been looking forward to being together again.”
School leaders have recognised that for some children, the return to school after so long at home has been more challenging, and so they have put additional support in place.
At Elm Park Primary in Winterbourne, some pupils are on a gentle path back to the classroom, known as a ‘phased return’, where they initially attend part-time only.
Reception pupils at Elm Park primary
Head teacher Carol Bond said: “We have also been fortunate to offer our breakfast club provision to families to support children who suffer from high levels of anxiety to come into school a little earlier, so that they can have time with a familiar adult before the school day starts.
"This has been really successful.”
At St Michael’s Primary in Winterbourne, pupils are being supported with play therapy, one-to-one listening support, and parents can talk to a parent support advisor.
At Frampton Cotterell Primary, more resources are being put into pastoral support and staff supporting pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, with daily well-being sessions.
At Iron Acton Primary, an emotional literacy support assistant is working to support children's mental health.
There is recognition at all the schools that children who have been away from their peers need extra time to catch up socially.
St Michael’s Primary head teacher Kirsty Robson said: “Our focus for the children on their return is to re-engage them with their learning, and yes, catch-up with the academic side of education is important, but equally important is to give them time to catch up with their friends, teachers, lunchtime supervisors, office staff and me!
"We are prioritising opportunities for outdoor learning such as forest schools, using the conservation area, daily opportunities for physical activity with the daily mile or PE and Games.”
At Frampton Cotterell primary, lunchtimes have been extended to give more time for play.
Mr Barnard said: “'Catch up' to us means catching up with friends and learning how to work collaboratively again with their peers."
At Iron Acton, the outside spaces are busy with an emphasis on play, Forest School and PE.
The next big challenge to add to year group bubbles, hand sanitising, one-way systems and remote learning has been COVID-19 lateral flow testing: for all pupils and staff in secondary schools and for staff only in primaries.
Mrs Bond said most staff tested at home, with all tests negative so far.
She added: "Our staff have been given the option to wear face masks, which have been provided by the school. All staff are wearing these in communal areas but take them off when in the classroom teaching our children.”
School leaders are now looking ahead hoping that, despite working within new restrictions, the worst is now behind them.