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Back to school but not back to normal

Pupils return to classroom in ‘bubbles’, with staggered break times and plenty of hand sanitiser

Sarah Bosley

sarah.bosley@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886655

Back to school but not back to normal

Ben Bond, head teacher at The Clere School

There have been a few tears and a lot of excitement this week, as schools prepare to open properly for the first time in nearly six months.

A ‘new normal’ means that things look very different now, with staggered break times, pupils grouped into ‘bubbles’ and new hand sanitising stations dotted around the buildings.

Schools, as we knew them, closed their doors on March 20 and for many children that was the last time they set foot in a classroom – although keyworker children and vulnerable pupils were supported and some years were gradually reintroduced as lockdown restrictions were eased.

Some secondary schools in the area have asked pupils to wear face coverings while in corridors and communal areas when they return this week and West Berkshire Council is recommending that they are worn on all school buses arranged by the district’s education transport department.

But Charlotte Wilson, headteacher at Trinity School in Newbury, said it had decided that “at this stage we don’t need everyone to wear face masks or visors”.

With around 1,000 pupils at the school, Dr Wilson acknowledged that there would be some who were anxious about a return to the classroom, but said that more pastoral care was available and staff had been in contact with some pupils over the holidays to prepare them for the new term.

“We are set and ready and exited to welcome our students back,” she said. “We have been working hard to ensure we are ready for them.”

At The Clere School in Burghclere, headteacher Ben Bond said in an innovative move it was creating bubbles based on buses, not year groups.

“It became very apparent to me that year group bubbles just wouldn’t work for our school due to our uniqueness,” he said. “If we did year group bubbles, the work would simply be undone as soon as they got on to the buses. So we have looked to be innovative.

“In my school now children won’t see their usual classmates for a while and that will be very different for them.”

With as many of his pupils living outside of immediate catchment, as in it, more than 95 per cent of children are bussed into the village secondary school every day.

This led the senior leadership team to arrive at the decision that bubbles based on buses, not year groups, was the best way of keeping pupils and staff safe when school reopens on Monday.

Keith Harvey, headteacher at St Nicolas Junior School in Newbury (pictured below), said his focus will be on supporting children’s physical and mental health in the coming weeks.

Pupils at the Link Road school returned yesterday (Wednesday) and will be working through a ‘recovery curriculum’.
“We will be doing lots of short activities to build their resilience up again,” Mr Harvey explained.  “We will be trying to do a lot of PE and we will be continuing with our daily mile.

“We do feel that children have not had as much opportunity to be active and it is important to get that back, as well as lots of chatting to friends, which they haven’t been able to do either.

“There will be a major focus on mental and physical health, as that is very important.”

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