Teachers are ready. Parents are ready. And kids are definitely ready. Now it’s time to swot up on the new school rules

SCHOOLS are prepared and teachers clued-up on guidelines – making a return to class as safe as possible

Lily Rushforth, 11, has been studying hard during lockdown but she can’t wait to start secondary school in September, to see her friends and learn more of her favourite subjects, English and science. Mum Clare, 41, a dental practice manager, agrees that the time is right for Lily to get back to school and make new friends at Outwood Academy Shafton in South Yorkshire.

She says: “Children need their education, to get back to learning and to get back into a routine. Homeschooling was a new experience and the resources Lily’s primary school offered were amazing. But now it’s really important that they go back.”

Having seen the efforts Lily’s new school has put into keeping its children and staff safe, Clare is confident that it’s cutting no corners when it comes to safety. She says: “There are handwashing rules and distancing markers, and pupils will have staggered start and finish times. The children have even had a virtual tour around the school to show them how everything will work.

“It’s quite a large school but they’ve managed it so well. They treat their students very much like their own children. I’ve got faith that the school will keep everyone as safe as possible.”

Although Lily has kept in touch with her friends online during lockdown, like any 11-year-old she’s looking forward to seeing them again. She says: “Outwood Academy gave us lots of information so I’m not nervous about the virus at all. Everyone raves about high school, and I’m very excited about making new friends as well as seeing my old ones. It’s going to be more hard work – but then, I like hard work!”

Class acts

Schools have clever ways to keep children healthy and safe

At Charles Dickens Primary in Southwark, South London, headteacher Cassie Buchanan has been preparing to keep children safe when they return to school.

She says: “We’ve been focusing on things like what you do with a tissue after you blow your nose, and encouraging children not to touch their faces or to hug and hold hands, in the way little children naturally do. We’ll be reminding them about other ways of showing affection and playing with friends.

“Children in primary schools won’t be expected to socially distance from each other because that’s really hard when you’re little. So we’ve created bubbles that you mix and play with and learn alongside – a bit like your family but bigger.

“We’ve introduced staggered drop-offs so children are coming at different times in the morning and being collected at different times in the afternoon, so we don’t have lots of children and grown-ups trying to come to school at the same time. We also have different times for children to have lunch and play with their class in different parts of the school.”

Meanwhile, all 1,000 of Doncaster’s Outwood Academy Adwick’s 11- to 16-year-olds are expected back next week. Head of English Laura Vance can hardly wait.

She says: “Words can’t describe how excited I am. We’ve missed the children so much! For some of our more deprived students, seeing staff waving good morning at the school gates might be the first smiling face of the day – the first thing anyone’s said to them. School isn’t just about lessons; we’re building humans.”

The return to school will bring some routine and normality back to pupils’ lives, Laura explains: “The children have been away from education for months now, which has led to loneliness, anxiety and isolation. It’s crucial that our students come back now and we’ve moved mountains to get it right.”

Staying safe at school

  • Most schools stayed open throughout the pandemic to support vulnerable children and the children of key workers.
  • Children are at much less risk than adults of becoming severely ill from coronavirus. There’s no evidence that children transmit the disease to any greater degree than adults.
  • Although there will always be risks while coronavirus is around, as long as schools follow UK government guidance, including regular handwashing and cleaning, the risk of catching it is low.
  • Parents are encouraged to find out what changes have been made at their nursery, school, college or childminder. Measures are likely to include better hygiene and regular handwashing, plus staggered arrival times and lunch breaks.
  • Young children find social distancing hard so where possible schools will limit contact between bubbles of children.
  • If there’s an outbreak at a school, local health protection teams will work with teachers to agree next steps.
  • Lockdown has been a worrying time for everyone so a new Wellbeing for Education Return package is available for teachers and other staff. It includes resources to help them address and promote children’s wellbeing and mental health needs, including giving students with existing difficulties the right support.


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