Schools were abuzz on Monday, when they welcomed back their students after Government Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were lifted for education. The weeks leading up to the reopening, staff have been putting into place Covid-19 secure measures to keep students and staff safe.
Rupert House decided to provide its pupils and staff with a specially planned ‘Reunion Day’ on Monday focusing on wellbeing and celebrating being back together. The school was adorned with bright balloons and banners welcoming its entire community back. Throughout the day the children participated in a number of activities and events, specifically designed to promote team building and focusing on fun. Amongst them, tasks included the children making shapes and words, including the school’s crest, with their bodies on the school AstroTurf. Every child planted their own sunflower seed which will ultimately be planted throughout the school grounds. The Year 6 class planted an apple tree in the grounds for future years to enjoy. They named it Stanley the Bramley! Each class decorated a canvas with their names and a symbol or word representing their time in lockdown. The canvases will be linked together to make one large piece of artwork. Everyone shared their own lockdown memories which were written on jigsaw pieces which were then connected together. The school also created a Covid capsule with each class choosing an item to include.
The Headteacher, Mr Armitage led an outside assembly to start the day. Talking about the day, Mr Armitage said, “I have been so impressed by the enthusiastic approach and the hard work of all our children and the exemplary educational provision our staff have delivered during this latest period of lockdown. That said, we are very mindful of the impact lockdown has had to everyone’s wellbeing and so, in recognition of this and in celebration of being able to be back together as one school community, we wanted to mark everyone’s return as a special Reunion Day designed for all of us – pupils and teachers alike – to readjust to our school environment, rekindle our friendships and lessen any anxieties some may have felt about coming back to school.”
Headteacher at Sacred Heart, Rachel Gavin said, “We have had a really great return to school, it has been fantastic to have the children all back again. Today (Thursday) the children are enjoying dressing up in their favourite book characters for a postponed World Book Day celebration.”
Beatriz Melero, Headteacher at Trinity School added, “Welcome back to our wonderful Trinity children. The whole school is alive with the noise and excited chatter of our youngsters. They have been greatly missed. As a staff we have been focusing on children’s emotional and mental wellbeing with a mixture of creative and social activities including chalk art, maths games and mindful painting.”
Headteacher at Valley Road School, Tim Coulson commented, It’s been wonderful to see all the children returning to Valley Road, especially witnessing their joy at being part of the community again through seeing their friends and teachers.”
“There has been a huge amount of negative language using expressions such as “catching up”, “lagging behind”, “missed year” and so on. It causes deep concern that such negativity may make children feel as if they are “failing” and being penalised on their return to school by being bombarded with more stuff to do and more time taken away from their personal lives to make them do it. This is not healthy. It is a fact that every person in the country has had to face up to lockdown(s) and are in the same boat. It’s also a fact that every individual and bubble will have experienced lockdown in a completely different way from the next bubble. Some parents will have been able to work with their child on a daily basis as life commitments have allowed them to do so. Many will have been forced into a balancing act of supreme delicacy when they feel as if they are spinning plates and at any second the whole lot are going to come crashing down. We believe at Valley Road our job is to support our community. We know everyone has been doing their very best under extremely difficult circumstances.
“We are delighted to welcome back the children and we start with them from whatever point they are on their return. We look carefully at what needs to be done academically but, more importantly, will look at how we can help emotionally. If children’s heads are sorted the rest will follow.”
At St Mary’s Preparatory School, this week the children have continued to follow a full timetable of lessons, PE activities, art, music and drama. It is British Science Week, so a number of their classes have taken part in additional science activities in our science lab, including investigating Galileo’s theories. The windows of our Year 2 classroom are filled with colourful rainbows, decorated by the children and containing details of what they missed during the current lockdown, and what they are looking forward to in the future.
Rob Harmer, Headmaster said, “We have really missed having the children in school, it has been a real delight to welcome them all back this week. Whilst our remote teaching ensured that their learning continued throughout lockdown, we know that the children have missed being here and learning in the classroom. The playground has been filled with the chatter of friends catching up, and it has been wonderful to see PE lessons in full swing again. The children tell me that their favourite thing about being back is the opportunity to see their friends, and we know how important that social interaction is for their wellbeing. For our Year 6 children, this was their first chance to celebrate their fantastic success in gaining places at their first choice of senior schools together, and the opportunity to talk excitedly about future plans. We have stringent health and safety procedures in place to ensure that we are minimising the risk to our school community, and our staff are following the Government protocol with bi-weekly Covid tests. Staff are looking forward to a productive few weeks before we break up for Easter, and we very much hope that when we return at the beginning of the summer term, that the children will be able to resume competitive sports fixtures and all of the other extra-curricular activities that they enjoy as part of life at St. Mary’s”.
Gillotts School and The Henley College have been provided with lateral flow tests for pupils as well as staff and students have been asked to wear face coverings in lessons. Headteacher at Gillotts School, Catharine Darnton said, “As we started lateral flow testing last Monday and tested right through to Saturday, we were able to welcome all students back on Monday. Of course there are some changes, such as wearing face coverings in lessons, but it was wonderful to have all the students back with us. They were clearly keen to come as attendance was 98%! We know everyone has had a different experience of lockdown but students really showed their resilience by slotting back into the “new normal” rules and routines. It’s just great to be back into education for real!”