'New normal' for schools after COVID

It’s been 149 days since schools were forced to close their doors due to the Coronavirus pandemic and in that time, life for both children and adults has changed dramatically.

New rules around social distancing and hand washing have had to be learned, as pupils prepare to return to the ‘new normal’ for the first time this September.

Routines have been changed, classrooms shifted around and lunches staggered to help fit a new way of working into our schools.

It’s been hard on children, who have had to endure not seeing their friends or teachers for months on end, whilst still having to work via the internet in such an unprecedented time.

There will be plenty of changes for them to wrap their heads around in September. At Silver Springs Primary Academy in Stalybridge they’ll now be operating a staggered start time, with gates remaining open for around 40 minutes to allow parents to socially distance as they drop children off at school.

They’ve also rearranged seating plans, implemented strict hand hygiene procedures and are even encouraging cycling to school to avoid crowded public transport.

Silver Spring’s principal, Deborah Mason, said that it’s been challenging few months, but that they’re prepared to deal with whatever the future brings.

“It’s been different, it’s a challenging job anyway but the support we’ve had from other headteachers, the local authority and staff in our school has made it a lot easier” she said.

“Our children have responded really well to everything we’ve been able to offer.

“A lot of good has come out of it even though it’s been such a challenging time.”

Silver Springs have worked with other schools across their academy trust to come up with a new plan for how school will work from September. Mrs Mason said: “All the things you’ve probably heard about already that other schools are doing, we’re no different.

“We’re making sure that we’ve got systems in place for hand washing, hygiene and cleaning regimes.”

Despite school being officially ‘closed’, between 30 and 125 children have still been attending each weekday as teachers continued to care for those most vulnerable and those who are children of key workers. The workload has been useful for helping them to fine tune their Covid plans, coming up with creative solutions to keep children safe upon their return.

Mrs Mason paid tribute to her pupils and their parents, who she said have been magnificent: “I’m just so proud of them” she said.

“I’m so proud of the effort they’ve put in with the encouragement of their teachers.

“I couldn’t ask for more from any of my parents, I call them my learning army. They’ve been fantastic in terms of the enthusiasm for the children and their learning.”

Teachers are under no illusions, children are excited to return to school to see their friends again, not sit in maths and English lessons, but they say it all plays an important part in educating a child. “That’s part of the socialisation of schools isn’t it” says Mrs Mason.

Throughout the past weeks, the school has been concentrating on fitness, with children out in the good weather taking part in ‘bootcamps’ and enjoying themselves outdoors. The principal told the Reporter that fitness is an important part of getting the children ready to return to school. 

“Children have been sitting at home and no matter what we’ve done to promote them moving, it’s not the same as the type of fitness levels they have when they’re in school, so we’re trying to combat that.

“We’ve been doing teamwork exercises because they’ve been sat in their little silos for months.

“Then a little bit of maths and English just to get them back in the swing of things.

“Routine is really important as well, getting up early and being on time for school.

“Just to have them here in person will be fantastic and I think all headteachers across the country will think like that: enough now, we want them back.”

It’s been a strange few months for the children who’ve adapted quickly to a different way of living. Daisy Mellor, 10, from Stalybridge says it’s been a struggle: “I’ve been doing ok. It’s hard working from home my dog barks when I’m doing a video so they don’t hear me reading.”

She says that when she return to school she's “just going to go out and play with all my friends and play games.”

Declan Jones, 10, from Carbrook, can’t wait to get back to school to see his friends and playing football again. He said: “It’s been different, a lot different, it’s weird.”

Ashton’s Hayden Smith, 10, said: “It’s a bit weird not going out and seeing all of my friends but it’s sort of fun not learning! I kind of miss school though.

“I’m going to go and play football and talk to all my friends.

“We’re going to do a lot more learning and it’s probably going to be a bit harder.”

Jamie Platt, 10, from Stalybridge, says that working from home has been harder than usual. “It’s been bit strange and stressful” she said “because you don’t know when to do the work and it’s strange when the schedule is a bit different.

“I’ve missed my friends and seeing them - and school lunch! Playing out at break.

“It might be strange for us, we might struggle a bit but I think we’ll be able to do it and get used to it.”

While school may look very different to students and parents at the school gates, the reopening is the first step into getting life back to normal as we know it for children.



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