More children in schools for lockdown 3
MORE than a quarter of children are attending lessons at some schools in the Frome Valley area, as staff, pupils and parents face new challenges in the third lockdown.
It comes as the amount of home learning organised online for other pupils is stepped up, with more live lessons via video links and increased contact and interaction.
Schools are also organising laptops, through both government schemes and donations, to give to families who do not have the necessary technology.
All the schools that spoke to the Voice reported increases in the numbers of pupils coming in compared with the first lockdown, as the rules allow more key worker families to send children to school and class more as 'vulnerable'.
At Iron Acton Primary School there are about 30 children in school on certain days – around 30% of the roll and double the number from the first lockdown.
Frampton Cotterell Primary School also has almost 30% of pupils attending. Head teacher Peter Barnard (above) initially had so many requests – 97 in total – that he had to write to parents and ask some to reconsider home schooling, after which the number dropped to 84.
At Manor Primary more than a quarter of pupils are in school – five times the level of the first lockdown.
Head teacher Amanda Flanagan said: “Our fabulous teaching assistants have really risen to the challenges of the current situation and have changed their working patterns to ensure we have enough adult supervision in school each day.”
Schools using a variety of internet platforms and learning methods.
Mr Barnard said: “Fortunately we had planned for a scenario like this and therefore we had already produced two weeks of learning for each year group. This has then enabled us to get daily videos recorded for pupils as well as organise Microsoft Teams calls for classes, so they can see their friends on a regular basis.”
At Elm Park Primary, head teacher Carol Bond said staff felt a "mixture of emotions" when regular classes were cancelled with hours to go, but has had remote learning ready since September, using the platforms Seesaw and Tapestry, with a "successful test run" when a bubble closed before Christmas.
Manor Primary staff are pre-recording lessons and using Microsoft Teams for pupil interactions with teachers.
But there is still a significant shortage of equipment for those learning remotely.
Winterbourne Academy head Jason Beardmore has been distributing laptops for months but says "demand has accelerated", with another 50 now on their way to pupils.
Elm Park has had equipment donated from residents and £1,500 from Fromeside Churches.
Despite concern nationally over the quality of food parcels for children on free school meals, the schools told the Voice they had had no complaints about theirs. They are however now joining the national voucher scheme, to give families more dietary choice and avoid having to travel to pick up parcels.
The next challenge for secondary schools is COVID-19 testing for teachers and pupils. At Winterbourne Academy, testing is already underway after Mr Beardmore and his senior team dedicated much of the Christmas holiday to finding and training volunteers and extra staff.
He said: “We were the only school I am aware of which was able to start testing immediately on day one. This is testament to the commitment and professionalism of our staff.”
Staff and pupils who are regularly in school are now tested, including Jason himself.