Andrea Parker is the Lead Headteacher at Bonneville Primary School in South London. She describes what school life has been like in her primary school one month after she opened her doors to more pupils.
For every headteacher, keeping children safe is our top priority. Before we reopened the school, our teachers were as excited and desperate to see the children as I was, but they were also anxious.
Introducing new measures
We introduced various measures to help keep pupils and teachers safe including dedicated routes to take children safely from the school gates to their classroom, pre-recorded assemblies and utilising outdoor space for lessons as much as possible. We also decided that each bubble should have a bubble lead - a teacher who takes students into the building - and that each bubble should have their own play and sports equipment.
One month on, I’m exceedingly proud of how it’s gone. It’s been a really slick operation.
Checking in with our staff
We began our preparations at Bonneville by sending out a survey to check the pulse of how teachers and parents were feeling about returning to school. From there, we were able to start modelling what we needed to do to support our families and help them to feel more confident in sending their children back. With fewer children coming back to start with, we didn’t need all staff to be here and so we thought that those who were very anxious could be asked to come back later on. We hoped that they would see how things are working and their confidence would build.
Reassuring and communicating with parents
Since welcoming 96 children to Bonneville in the first week, numbers have steadily increased and we have between 50-80% attendance across Reception, Year 1 and Year 6. Many parents have been active in reassuring others who were initially uncertain and did a great job of preparing the children for what was to come, and the school supported that process with videos of the new set-up and subsequent newsletters. That communication and co-operation between parents and teachers has really helped the routines stick.
Making bubbles work for children
Before we reopened, we made sure to assess the size and dynamic of each bubble. Children are people with their own personalities and their own way of being, so we made sure each bubble was a manageable group. We’re used to seeing the children go off in their little friendship groups at playtimes, but now the children stick to their full bubbles, and they are really supportive of each other within those groups so that no child is left behind.
The best part of reopening has been seeing the children’s reactions. They have been thrilled to see their friends and teachers, and you can tell it meant so much to them. I’ve been impressed by how understanding the pupils have been of the new measures: rigorous cleaning, newly arranged classrooms, staggered timetables and bubbles.
We know that collaboration and sharing information is the best way to find a way of moving forward together. So, we shared a Home School collaboration survey to find out what our parents would like us to prioritise as part of our catch up strategy in September.
We now know that our parents have struggled to accommodate certain things, for example, staggered starts for siblings. So, from September we have decided to only have 2 start times; 8.45am and 9am. We will also be running virtual parent consultation meetings and sharing our updated risk assessment with them so that they understand the hygiene practices.
I am excited to share our September plans with our parents over the coming days, and cannot wait to have our children back at school learning, where they belong.