The Return to School by Headteacher, Sarah Shirras
Sponsored Guest Post for Norfolk County Council by Headteacher Sarah Shirras
The return to school this September will be, as so many other things have been this year, ‘unprecedented’. Going back to school each year after the long summer break, or starting for the first time, should be filled with excitement even if tinged with a little anxiety as you join a new class. I’m always anxious that everyone is safe and well but am always delighted to see everyone and return to the rhythm of school life that I love. This year there is so much talk about our return with much of it focused on the worries and the risk of children coming back. When school starts this September, some things will be different; some things we have had to change to help keep us all safe and some things we have chosen to change as we have spent time thinking about what we do. However, many things will be the same and schools will be their usual happy and exciting places to be.
All our planning for our return is based around local and national guidance and, most importantly, risk assessment. This is never an absolute; it is all about balancing different priorities. The risk now is a prolonged absence from school; we need to return to school safely to learn, to socialise and to thrive.
The most important thing that mustn’t change is the atmosphere of our school. Children need to come to a safe, happy place where they are greeted back with genuine enthusiasm to what, after all, is their school. Staff will be excited to see their new class; children they have only met briefly but who they will need to get to know quickly in order to build the relationships that make a classroom an effective place to learn.
Some things that have had to change include having sanitisers at every door and adding additional hand basins. Back in March, children adapted quickly to increased hygiene, being taught why this was important. Classrooms have less furniture in them and children are, in the main, facing the front sitting beside and not opposite each other. Schools will have a very clear cleaning regime, with all staff playing a part in this. There will also be clear arrangements as to where and when to drop off and pick up children.
We are planning for there to be no mixing between children in different Year Groups. This means some daily activities cannot take place including assemblies and School Council; we will not be using our dining hall. Our outdoor spaces are either designated for one Year Group or have a rota. Our toilets have been reallocated for single Year Group use. Staff will work with a designated Year Group and give each other breaks.
We have used this opportunity to rethink our timetable to support these changes but also make the school day work for our children as they return to full time education. Getting it right for all of them is what matters most right now!
Written by Head teacher of St William’s Primary School, Sarah Shirras
Sarah Shirras, Head teacher of St Williams Primary School in Thorpe St Andrew. Picture: Antony Kelly