Suffolk pupils promised safe return to school this week after Covid-19 break
Suffolk education leaders have said that schools across the county are well prepared for the return of pupils on Monday, with school leaders positive about classes resuming in-person.
Under the government’s roadmap out of Covid-19 lockdown, all pupils at both primary and secondary schools return from March 8, as well as breakfast and after school clubs.
Schools have all put in place updated risk assessments, with preparations including additional cleaning, classroom spacing, corridor movements and dining hall arrangements.
Adrian Orr, assistant director of education and teaching at Suffolk County Council said feedback had been that pupils, teachers and parents were by and large happy for pupils to be back.
“I think there is a keenness to be back to school,” he said.
“There is a real positive undertone of getting back to some form of normality. That is not without its challenges and difficulties because there are still a few hurdles for us to cross, but the sense across the system in Suffolk is a real willingness to get back to some sort of normality as quickly as possible.
“The window between the 8th March and the Easter holiday, which falls fairly early this year, is a good time to get a lot of things in place, get children back in and engaged, and we can really maximise the impact from day one but particularly as we move into the summer term as well. The Suffolk system is pretty prepared.
“The sense I have is that it has worn thin for parents educating at home. The vaccination programme seems to be rolling out very effectively, and I think that is giving people confidence.
“This has been a huge issue for those of us that are adults, but if you are 11 or 12 this has been a big chunk of your whole life.”
Schools have remained open throughout the Covid lockdowns to educate vulnerable children and those of key workers. For secondary schools that has been no more than around 5% of the school population, but in some areas of the county up to 45% of primary pupils have been in.
Secondary school pupils are being encouraged to test themselves twice a week and wear a facemask, while other Covid-secure measures such as banks of hand sanitiser, staggered break times, outdoor lessons and social distancing are likely to remain for the coming weeks. Additional wellbeing measures are also likely to be in place.
Parents who do not feel able to send their child back to the classroom have been urged to have a conversation with their school headteacher as early as possible.
Mr Orr said the benefits of returning extended beyond just getting back to the curriculum.
“We mustn’t underestimate the social interaction school brings,” he said.
“The curriculum and lessons are hugely important, but school is about so much more than that – it is about social relationships, school shapes you and how you interact with others, school gives you opportunities beyond the curriculum to do a whole range of things that shape you as an individual.
“With the best will in the world, that has not been possible, despite the fantastic work by school leaders, teachers, support staff and parents and families who have all pulled together in the most unusual of times.”