I am delighted that our Nursery, Reception, Year One and Year Six children are now enjoying being back at school with their friends. The children have embraced all of the safety measures that we have put in place to minimise any potential risk. They tell me that they are really pleased to be back together and so our classrooms are filled with a sense of joy and excitement. Thermal scans, face masks and social distancing all sounded rather alarming on paper but, in practice, the children have taken it all in their stride. As far as they are concerned, these are very minor impositions compared with the strictures of lockdown, and the face masks have already become much sought after fashion accessories.
Our children are much more resilient than we tend to think and perhaps our risk assessments and plans should have given more consideration to their desire to ‘get it right’ and return to the classroom safely. My daughters are in Year 2 and Year 4, and I am acutely aware of their longing to return to School fully. They are feeling a little frustrated that their friends in the years below and above them are back in School already. At Rossall, we are in the very fortunate position of being able to:
- Have ‘bubbles’ or ‘pods’ of no more than fifteen children
- Utilise teaching rooms where the 2 metre can be observed effectively.
Consequently, I believe that we could bring back a greater number of children sooner than the current government guidance would suggest. A ‘one size fits all’ solution which takes no account of the context of individual schools is not sustainable. Teaching unions need to focus more upon what is achievable and work with the Department of Education to provide creative solutions to what are, primarily, logistical problems.
Two of our returning classes are temporarily housed in the Sports Centre and our Year One class is now located in the Astronomy Centre. Obviously there are many inner-city primary schools that simply do not have the space to meet the current social distancing guidelines but it would be perfectly possible to locate classes in nearby buildings such as village halls, sports centres and libraries. This is not ideal but the real tragedy is for children to continue to be denied the opportunity to return to school.
Headteachers need to be provided with the autonomy necessary to make decisions that are context based. Those schools able to bring children back safely and in accordance with the guidelines should not have to abide by arbitrary rules that allow some children to return but not others. Those schools who do not have the capacity to accommodate all their children should be supported by their local council so that they can make use of buildings currently standing idle.
There needs to be a coordinated and concerted effort to bring all children back to School safely. The political point scoring needs to stop and we should work together to ensure that ALL children (regardless of what type of school they attend) are able to return to school as soon as possible. Anything less would constitute a catastrophic failure and a generation of young people would rightly conclude that they had been let down by the very people who should be supporting them during this time.