Six months ago, education like everything else was turned upside down with the Covid-19 Crisis. From home schooling to zoom classrooms, it was classed as a ‘new normal.’
Parents and teachers alike all struggled to adjust to their new way of life, all wondering when it would be safe enough for schools to reopen. Schools have now worked endlessly to make it as safe as possible for all students to come back safely. From bubble groups to staggered starting times, they are doing whatever they can to make the children feel safe and feel some form of normality.
But now that schools across Teesside have opened their doors again, we wanted speak to those from inside and outside schools to hear how it’s going. This is our account – the Good, the Bad and the Lovely…
Mrs Randall-Harris, Principal, Norton Primary Academy, has some really positive words to say, and shares, “After almost six months of very different schooling, the new academic year at Northern Education Trust’s Norton Primary Academy has been a huge success. Our doors opened on Wednesday 2nd September to lots of smiling, happy children. As Principal of the academy, I can only describe it as feeling whole again. Walking around classrooms full of children learning and reconnecting with their teachers and friends felt completely right. Yes, there have been challenges along the way but with amazing support from the Trust, a rigorous risk assessment, an in-depth understanding of the guidance and the implementation of new procedures to keep everyone safe, we remain unswerving in our commitment to ensure that the outcomes of our young people prepare them fully for life.”
One parent from another school says, “The support from teachers has been non-stop – even when they had their own families to worry about. Even though I’m naturally worried, I know they will do right by my kids.”
Other parents, who are also teachers working in schools in Teesside, reflect on going back to school after lockdown, saying, “We asked our kids how their first day was. Their replies reflected our mood. One says, ‘Brilliant, I saw my friends,’ the other, ‘It was stressful, we have to be so careful.’ By the end of the week, it was the same old conversations. ‘What did you do today?’ ‘I can’t remember’ comes the reply! But secretly we know they are relieved to be back.”
For some teachers across the region though, the experience has been more grim.
A teacher from a school in Middlesbrough, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells us, “Even after risk assessments and other sanitising and mask procedures, I do feel like I am thrown into an abyss of danger and always go home thinking ‘what if’. I try my best to instruct the students to comply with strategies yet you always get some who don’t, and that’s when things get complicated.
“Even though we are told to take precautions and don’t come in if we have cold and flu symptoms, one does feel the added pressure of what would happen to my lessons and how would school cope if I was off? Planning has also changed. We need to take Covid into account and plan with that in mind. If carrying out a practical, it’s not as easy as we think, as thinking of risks and health and safety is so paramount now more than ever. The teacher workload has often been something which is debated, often being something which gets bigger as the year goes on, now I feel it’s more of a worry and strain with Covid.”
A worried parent also shares, “In primary, it is impossible for children to do safe learning, germs are easily spread especially during the winter months.”
Another says, “I queried whether the twins should wear masks and was told it was at the head teachers’ discretion. I said the boys wanted to keep the staff safe and were happy to wear masks inside for most of the lessons. But other students can’t all be expected to do the same.”
But on the whole, there are some lovely stories about returning to school.
Another teacher from a Stockton school shares this, “The delight of seeing the keen faces ready to learn was a sheer joy. The children were looking to us for reassurance but also with a renewed understanding of the importance of being back at school.
“Adaptation is the order of the day. Policies and procedures changing as children and staff alike have to make the best of the hand dealt by Covid-19. As each day ends, having been filled with meeting established children or guiding the new ones, there is a definite feeling of satisfaction.”
And one parent whose children go to primary school in Stockton says, “The warmth and reassurance of the welcome extended to us by the school at the start of this new term has been exemplary. Despite the inevitable worries about the situation, we actually enjoyed home-schooling over the summer and spending time together as a family during lock-down. Having to think about returning to school in circumstances that are still very strange did bring back some of the anxiety involved in going back to school. However, the staff at the school have been incredible in their professionalism, the calm and friendly way they have approached reopening, and the reassurances they have given us in all communications. We couldn’t have asked for more support, and whatever happens from now going forward, we’re sure the school will handle it as well as they have so far.”
So, yes, the situation across Teesside, the UK and indeed the world, is still extremely uncertain and unsettling. But we have some amazing schools and teachers, and pulling together, we are sure our children will be resilient and keen to learn whatever the near future brings.
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