I am the Principal Teacher in a Primary School with a school roll of 500+ pupils. Preparation for the return to school happened during the summer holidays. The management team and business manager worked hard to prepare the areas with signage and social distancing measures. We had about 3 different models of learning ready, based on 50%, 30% or 100% blended learning etc. Communication with parents is important to us, we kept abreast of all developments, so we could tweet or post information via email or on the school website as new guidance was released.
August 2020; risk assessments written, we are ready to go…
The children started on their designated day, full of life. We had children with surnames A-L on the first day, then the others the following day, on the third day all pupils attended. They had experiences to share and were keen to get to know their new teacher. I was nervous before I saw them. The children in my class were delighted to see friends again, they were smiley and confident all day! My nerves left after the first few minutes talking to the eager to impress pupils. On reflection, my nerves were about the unknown. I didn’t know how they were going to react to a full day of school. I was worried I would have lots of anxious children and not know how to reassure them but fortunately, it was much the same as the start of any new term for the children in my class. The first couple of weeks were about getting to know the children and building positive relationships before starting to get to know what their literacy and numeracy skills were. I taught the children about Zones of Regulation and Building Resilience. These programmes are to teach the children about their emotional wellbeing and how to self-regulate. Health and Wellbeing remains our focus in school. We work hard on literacy and numeracy skills, teachers strive to raise attainment.
There are lots of new routines in place for the children (and me) to remember. They have a pack of resources each, they are not to share resources, gone are the days where I could say ‘just borrow his/her rubber’ every time a child loses a rubber or pair of scissors. I have given out about 10 new sharpeners this week alone! The children are not to move around the classroom like they used to, cooperative learning looks different now. I can no longer send a child to the office with a message or to go to the art cupboard to pick up the art resources I accidentally forgot in my rush at lunchtime. Hand washing takes up almost an hour of my day and I clean the tables before the children eat their lunch in the classroom. PE is all outdoors, with limited equipment. We are all very skilled in running and athletics now.
I have been teaching for 10 years and this is the most uncertain time in education I have experienced. I believe that schools will not look the same again, we will adapt to our ‘new normal’ and the way we used to work will become a distant memory that only the more experienced teacher will be able to reflect on. We are more aware now of cross-contamination, the classes don’t mix to ensure we know who has been in contact with who, this is a change I think we might continue. Hand washing will not just be the responsibility of the child to remember but part of the timetable. I look forward to and I am hopeful that school trips and school camp will return to normal; these are all experiences we remember from school days. Community events are important to schools, parental engagement has been challenging during these times. We are not allowed parent volunteers in the building so that has a direct effect on how parents feel about the school. We will need to be creative with ways of getting parents involved and feeling supported. If we continue to support staff, parents and pupils, we can continue to create a learning environment where everyone has the opportunity to flourish.
If you have an experience that you would like to share with the Pupil Inclusion Network, we’d love to hear from you and you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org