‘Parents are clearly anxious’: teachers prepare for safe return to school

From taking phonics lessons in woodlands to conducting play productions online, organising the summer term of primary school is likely to prove a feat for teachers.

With unions, staff and parents expressing concerns over the safety of more nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6 children returning to school on 1 June after the easing of lockdown restrictions, many are unlikely to open straight away.

But at Hartford Manor primary school and nursery, preparations are under way to keep teachers and children safe when it begins allowing some pupils back.

“Parents are clearly anxious because more are keeping them off than choosing to send them. But we’re going to be ready in trying to make it as normal as possible for the children when they come back,” said the headteacher Simon Kidwell.

Across the school’s site in Northwich, Cheshire, water fountains have been replaced with 37 hand-washing stations. Tables and chairs in classrooms have been spaced out to allow for two-metre distancing between pupils.

Windows and doors will be open where possible and air conditioning units will be switched off to prevent the same air recirculating in classrooms.

Although 400 children usually attend the school, only a quarter will be back in the week beginning 8 June, allowing more space for smaller class sizes.

In years 1 and 6, 15 children will be in each class taught by one teacher. Reception classes will be kept to 16 pupils, with two teachers.

Kidwell said: “The hardest bit is the reception classrooms because we want them to have a tactile, hands-on experience but equally we’ve also got to look at the guidance around cleaning and keeping things separate.”

For four- to five-year-old children returning to reception, playtime will look markedly different. Sandpits have been blocked off and equipment for activities such as painting, building blocks and reading areas, will need to be cleaned after each group.

In the playground, bikes and bats and balls will also need to be wiped down between groups.

The school’s nursery, which takes in three- to four-year-olds, will operate in much the same way, with some furniture being removed to allow more space between children. Where teachers are required to change nappies, they will wear personal protective equipment including an apron, gloves, face covering and eye protection.

Kidwell said: “We’re also encouraging the teachers to not get into face-to-face contact with the children. Contact will be from the side, whereas often they kneel down to be at face level with the child.”

However, he admitted there would be instances where keeping a distance would be impossible. “If a child needs a hug, and a teacher decides to give them one, we’ve just got to be very sensitive around it,” said Kidwell.

Learning for year 1 (five- to six-year-olds), and year 6 pupils (10- to 11-year-olds) will be a more adventurous affair, with teachers taking classes on the playing field or the “forest school” in the school’s adjoining woodlands, weather permitting.

Regular hand-washing and physical distancing are the only tools being proffered as protection against the transmission of coronavirus, but Kidwell said the school had not ruled out the potential for some teachers to wear face masks around older pupils in future.

Another key consideration, is how staff will help year 6 children with their transition to secondary school in September. “I’ve heard from parents that some of the children have struggled when they’ve been at home because emotionally they didn’t expect primary school to end so abruptly,” said Kidwell.

While the year group has had visits to London and open days at secondary schools cancelled, teachers are hoping to fill in the gaps with remote activities. This potentially includes an online leavers’ performance in which each child will film a separate piece to camera.

Although Kidwell was confident the school were taking all the steps to mitigate the risk of the spread of the virus, he said there were likely to be more obstacles to navigate in the coming weeks.

“If we get track and trace up and running by the time we get back to school it could be that we’re short-staffed or the children are forced to isolate because there’s an outbreak, so it’s very stop-start,” he said.

Source: Read Full Article