The new school year will offer students so much more out of their studies. Teachers, students and parents alike have remained committed to their learning whether through remote learning or in their bubbles, but September will see schools return to boisterous centres of learning where children can embrace hands-on lessons and grow into confident, fully-rounded young adults.
Thanks to the ongoing, successful rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination programme students can again enjoy every opportunity school can offer, making attending school even more fulfilling. Some safety measure will remain in place.
An enhanced school day experience
As children return from the summer holidays, the school day will start to resemble how it used to be: The government is no longer advising bubbles or staggered lunch breaks and entire classrooms no longer need to be sent home to isolate. Jina Shar, who goes to Claremont High School loves science, but has had to rely on textbooks and Microsoft Teams rather than test tubes in recent months. That will change from September, after a year of not being allowed to do experiments due to Covid-safety the bunsen burners will be turned back on. “They’ve said that the coming year will be much better and we’ll have lots more experiments,” Jina says.
“The education at home compared to at school was very difficult because the teachers would either set taped work or do a Teams call. At school you can ask questions if you need help,” she says. But it’s the out-of-classroom buzz of activity that will really remind students, staff and parents that normality is returning. Physics teacher Richard Wood, from Claremont High School in Kenton says pupils will benefit from the return of extra-curricular activities including science, chess, reading and debating clubs, Duke of Edinburgh Awards and sports events, in particular the popular inter-college competitions. “That’s a highlight of their week for many of them, so it’s going to be good to have that back on.”
‘Single most important thing’
Vaccination is the “single most important thing” which has allow measures to be eased, says Richard Wood, from Claremont High School in Kenton. “The numbers vaccinated now are high enough for us to feel relatively safe about being in the classroom with 30 students, and to worry less about the risk of passing it on.” While there will still be some testing come September, it won’t be at the same level, releasing a “huge burden” from the senior management team. Pupils should take two rapid Covid-19 tests at school or college at the start of term and then twice weekly at home. Regular testing will remain, but children will no longer be required to self-isolate when a close contact tests positive.
Kelly Dunn, a mother of two children and Yorkshire-based governor at Norton College mixed secondary school says the reduction in lateral-flow testing will free up teachers to less pandemic management and teach more. “The teachers need a lot of credit for how hard they have worked throughout the pandemic. It has been tough on them having to put in all the work, not only teaching the children but having to adapt and find new ways of teaching. They have also had to find ways of managing Covid-testing children.
Self-isolation goes, sanitiser stays
Although progress has been made and the vaccination programme has made it safer for schools to expand the services and activities on offer, parents will be encouraged to know some of the measures of the pandemic will stay with schools. Although bubbles, a one-way system, staggered arrivals and mandatory mask-wearing are no longer advised, the Claremont High School teacher said a focus on sanitising hands and ventilating rooms will remain. “We place a high emphasis on ventilation,” explains Richard, 39, who lives in Harrow with his wife and two young children. “We’ve made sure that the windows are open during lessons, and we go through I don’t know how much hand sanitiser. There are things that the school is going to retain.”
Five-year-old Darcey Dunn, Kelly’s Dunn’s daughter, is in reception. Although Kelly says there were pros and cons of home-schooling for the family, she knows that Darcey will benefit from being around other children more frequently and learning, playing and problem-solving together. “A lot of what she does is learning through play. Home school for Darcey was watching things on a laptop and that’s not how they normally learn,” explains Kelly. “The lockdown affected their socialising skills because they are not with their peers. This is probably more evident for Darcey because a lot of what they do is working in groups and learning from each other. You put them in a room on their own with a laptop and they haven’t got anybody to bounce off, nobody to learn with and they get frustrated”.
Opening the door on a new life
Kelly’s son, 16-year-old Bobby Dunn is heading to college for his A-levels year and already has one Covid-19 jab under his belt. His favourite subjects require hands-on learning that has been more challenging to recreate via video and with the restrictions in place. “Going to college will be completely different. It will all be face to face. It is going to be a lot more normal in the sense that it is not going to be talked at through a computer. I will also be able to use equipment, like a mixing desk in music and video equipment for my media studies. I had to record a short film and had to make it at home and edit at school. It was a challenge. Originally you would have done both filming and editing at school and started both much earlier than we did”.
Bobby’s confident that the expansion of what teaching activities schools and colleges can offer students will make the learning process easier and less sporadic than last year. “ Doing A-Levels is going to be a lot smoother. I have only got three subjects to worry about and they are subjects I am interested in. I am not, fingers crossed, going to have a virus interrupting that. Going to college is a new start, a fresh start, a change of scenery, closing the door on school, and opening the door on a new life,” he says.
Vaccine now available for 16-17 year olds
From August, all young people aged 16 to 17 in England are to be offered a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday 23 August to give them protection before returning to school.
To find out what to expect when pupils return to school, including asymptomatic testing in place visit gov.uk/backtoschool