From 1 June, primary schools and early years settings across England opened their doors to pupils in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6 children classes with a raft of safety measures to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission and to reinstate learning in an environment that is best for their development.
Harminder Aggarwall reception teacher and Early Years Leader at Tudor Primary School in Southall, London where 98% of pupils are from a South Asian background reflects upon the experience: “I know that many parents are understandably still very anxious about coronavirus. A large proportion of our pupils are from a South Asian background, some of whom live in extended families and there is concern that pupils will catch the virus and pass it onto family members who are vulnerable and shielding.”
“What we want our parents, and parents up and down the country, to know is that the children’s wellbeing is the number one priority and we have taken many steps to ensure safety. To reduce risk, we are limiting class sizes, limiting contact between groups and promoting good hygiene practices. In addition to the introduction of classroom bubbles, we are getting the children to wash their hands at every opportunity, we also have cleaners that come into the classroom every 20 minutes.”
Talking about how children have responded, Sonia Saini a reception teacher also at Tudor Primary School says: “The children have responded very well to the changes, they know the hygiene routine and often prompt each other to wipe down tables and wash hands. Furthermore, from a wellbeing perspective, they have been very happy to see their friends and teachers and get back to some sort of routine.”
Sonia continues: “Early years in school are the building blocks for reading and writing, together with social development and so, for those parents who are eligible, I’d encourage them to talk to any friends, family and community members who have already sent their children back to school and take the plunge themselves.”
Whilst there was concern at first, Colly Ullah, a primary school teacher and mother of two young boys is glad that she made the decision to continue her son’s education from the school environment.
Colly says: “Going back to school came at a time when Elias’s motivation for home learning was waning. The structure and intensity of school is definitely more productive compared to home learning. He has started joined up handwriting, something I probably would not have covered as I wasn’t aware this was the expectation for his year group.”
Colly continues: “Going back to school has also lifted his spirits, he is happy to be part of the wider community again. Seeing his teachers and friends has made him smile, he is beaming when I pick him up and as a parent, this is so uplifting.”
Considering the situation from a safety point of view Colly says: “We from the Bangladeshi community which has been particularly affected by COVID-19, so there was an initial worry of Elias returning to school, catching something and then bringing it back.
“However, as a teacher myself I know that schools are doing all they can in these challenging times and all the measures recommended by the government are being adhered to. I certainly do not regret sending Elias back.”
HOW DOES SCHOOL DIFFER NOW?
Pupils must not attend school if they or anyone in their household presents symptoms
No more than 15 children per classroom
More regular handwashing
Staggered break and lunch times, plus different arrival and departure arrangements
Less sharing of equipment such as books and toys
Parents should not gather at school gates
Carers should only enter school buildings by appointment