Safety first in the classroom as schools reopen
Local headteachers stress importance of hygiene as pupils prepare for a year like no other
School life for children across the district will be very different when they all return in the coming days.
Teaching ‘bubbles’, hand sanitising units and face coverings in corridors and on buses is the new norm as schools open their doors for all pupils for the first time since March 20.
Pupil Georgina Brown, who spoke to newburytoday at the beginning of lockdown, starts in Year 7 at Park House School today (Thursday).
She said: “I’m very excited to start secondary school. Although it will be different from normal, it will be new for everyone.
“I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends and meeting loads of new friends as well as starting loads of new subjects and sports.”
Eleven-year-old Esme White, who will also start in Year 7, was able to go back to her primary school in Woolton Hill for a few weeks at the end of term.
She said: “I’m a bit nervous, but I’m glad that I know four people who will be in my tutor group.”
Throughout the summer schools have been busy planning and preparing for the return of pupils, installing hand-santising units and creating one-way systems within their buildings.
Marketing officer at St Bartholomew’s School Lucy Rumens said: “At St Bart’s we are really looking forward to welcoming students back tomorrow.
“Staff have been in for two training days already this week.
“There’s a very positive atmosphere and we feel we have done all we can do to prepare for the students’ return.
“The headteacher wrote to parents again last week to make sure everyone was signposted to the most recent information, including a presentation on the changes the students will encounter.
“All this information is on our website.”
At Kennet School in Thatcham every member of staff has been issued with a Covid backpack containing items to manage their own safety and that of people in their classroom.
Headteacher Gemma Piper said this allowed “their movement around the site to be a little bit simpler, they are never going to be without the items they require”.
Mrs Piper said the school is not forcing face coverings “but if it is a barrier to a pupil coming back, I want them in the classroom over not wearing a face covering”.
She added: “We are pretty confident that we have done everything that we need to on the ground, and if transmission rates do increase locally then we will stipulate face coverings in due course.
“If there is some nervousness, we have worked with a number of our families to help them feel confident and to make sure they have got what they need to feel safe.”
Headteacher at Trinity School Charlotte Wilson said she was excited to welcome students back this week.
The school will be split into bubbles – class bubbles for the younger pupils and year group bubbles for the upper school and an enhanced cleaning programme is in place.
The Clere School headteacher Ben Bond said in an innovative move they were creating bubbles based on buses, not year groups.
There will be two main bubbles – those who live in catchment and those who don’t. Those bubbles will be broken down further into classrooms where pupils will remain throughout the school day.
Teachers will move between classrooms, instead of pupils, as the school felt this was the safest way to ensure social distancing during changeover times.
This has meant the school has had to continue online learning even though all pupils will be back in the same building.
“For some special lessons we will have some children in front of laptops following a lesson being taught by a teacher in another classroom,” Mr Bond explained.
“We have sourced all the laptops for this to take place.
“The staff moving around the school instead of the pupils changes the perspective of things.
“We are doing a great job, as best we can, but we can’t minimise risk completely. We believe this gives us the best chance to be Covid-secure.
“There have been questions from staff too, but I think they are all up for it. There’s a good team spirit at this school.”
Headteacher at St Nicolas Junior School (above) Keith Harvey said his focus will be on supporting children’s physical and mental health.
After months of home-schooling, the school is anticipating a wide range of abilities when they return and already has plans in place to support pupils.
The school will be arranged into year group bubbles and will have staggered start and finish times, separate entrances and exits for different years and alternate break and lunch times.
“We are really emphasising to our staff about keeping themselves safe,” Mr Harvey said.
“If adults are moving around the school we are asking them to wear a face covering.
“We have increased the washing facilities and are making sure the children know the importance of increased hygiene.”
Secondary school reopening dates
St Bart’s – Today (Thursday) for Years 7-12. Tomorrow (Friday) for Year 13
The Downs – Today (Thursday) for Years 7 and 12. Tomorrow (Friday) for all other years.
Park House – Today (Thursday) for Year 7 and 12. Tomorrow (Friday) for all other years.
Trinity – Today (Thursday).
Kennet – Today (Thursday).
John O'Gaunt – Today (Thursday) for Year 7. Tomorrow (Friday) for all other years.
The Willink – Today (Thursday) for Year 7 and 12. Tomorrow (Friday) for all other years.
Theale Green - Today (Thursday) for Year 7 and 12. Tomorrow (Friday) for Years 10, 11 and 13. Monday, September 7, for Years 8 and 9.
Mary Hare – Pupils will set be returning to school yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon.
Little Heath – Today (Thursday).
Newbury College – Courses begin this month.
The Clere – Monday, September 7
The Hurst – Monday, September 7, for Years 7 and 11. Tuesday, September 8, for all other years.