Schools welcome back some pupils – but full reopening must wait

July 03 2020
Schools welcome back some pupils – but full reopening must wait

CHILDREN in the Frome Valley area have been returning to school – but the prospect of a full re-opening of classrooms remains a long way off.

Staff in both primary and secondary sectors have been providing online learning since lockdown, but are now able to have face-to-face lessons with some pupils.

Peter Barnard, head teacher at Frampton Cotterell CofE School, has been busy as the school adapted to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. The school was initially nominated as the location for key worker children from several schools in the area which form the Frome Valley Alliance. It meant that Frampton hosted children from around the surrounding area, including over the Easter holidays.

As individual schools have welcomed children back to the classroom, the school has been focussing on its own pupils.

Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils are back in class, as well as those of key workers.

The school now operates in ‘bubbles’ of 10 pupils, each with two adults: there are 13 altogether. This means teachers and other staff are working their allocated hours in school. The bubbles of children attend four days a week, with Wednesday just for children of key workers, so other areas can be deep-cleaned.

Mr Barnard told the Voice that the school was “full to bursting” and had had to tell some parents it did not have the space to accommodate them, which was “heartbreaking”.

He said: “We are incredibly proud of all our children and families. Both through the home learning taking place and the pupils who have returned to school, they have shown remarkable levels of resilience.

A huge amount of credit must go to every household who have kept their children learning and safe throughout these uncertain times and we are really pleased to see so many happy faces, both through video calls and in the class room bubbles.”

As the Voice went to press, Year 6 pupils were getting back to school at St Michael’s Primary in Winterbourne, joining Reception, Year 1 and key workers’ children.

Head teacher Kirsty Robson said: “We are absolutely delighted to welcome back Year 6, so that they are able to enjoy their last four weeks of primary school together after most of them have spent 7 years together.”

Like many other schools, St Michael’s has stayed open through lockdown for the children of key worker parents, including in the holidays, and reached capacity for the initial 2m social distancing guidelines.

Ms Robson said: “Our wonderful school is slowly coming back to life. The chatter in the classrooms and the laughter in the playground has been like music to my ears these past few weeks. We cannot wait to be able to extend this offer to more children, when we are allowed.”

Most of the 1,650 students at Winterbourne Academy have been learning at home for more than three months.

The secondary school made provision for the families of key workers and for the most vulnerable children throughout lockdown and on June 15 it began welcoming back pupils who will be taking GCSE and A-level exams next summer.

Year 10 pupils are returning on one day per fortnight, with one day in ten allocated for each tutor group in the year, and continuing to study at home at other times.

Year 12s are invited back in smaller numbers for some face-to-face contact with teachers along with their online learning.

The school's distance learning includes pre-recorded narrated lessons in every subject, as well as a project-based approach for Years 7 to 9 and Google classroom units for Year 11 pupils to help them prepare for post-16 study.

A Zoom induction evening for parents of September’s year 7s was attended by 250 people, and children have received an induction pack, with more subject-specific information this month to help them prepare to join the school.

Like all other school leaders, principal Jason Beardmore and his team are waiting for detail on the Government’s stated aim to have all students back in September. In the meantime, they are working on ensuring that all students have access to adequate IT to enable them to learn at home if and when necessary.

Dave Baker, chief executive of Olympus trust, which runs the school, said: “It has been lovely to be able to welcome more children back into school.”

He said the focus for the final weeks of this academic year was on nurturing and supporting students and reconnecting with school.