Socially distanced desks, hand sanitisers in classrooms and new handwashing stations are now the norm for pupils. Around 40 percent of schools in England opened their doors again yesterday, with the rest set to follow later in the week. They had been shut since March 20, with only vulnerable pupils and children of key workers attending classes.
While four in 10 schools in England welcomed back pupils for the autumn term, some 97 percent of schools are ready to reopen fully in the next few days. But those who keep their children at home have been warned they will face fines, it was confirmed yesterday.
Parents were back doing the school run for the first time since the outbreak of coronavirus earlier this year.
But one teacher said he felt the changes did not go far enough. Adam Woodward, 23, who is beginning a new job at Horizon Community College in Barnsley, said: “I’m about to begin my career as a newly qualified teacher. I will be teaching with no PPE, in an environment where social distancing is impossible.
“I am scared and so are the students. This Government has failed me and every child in every school. Shame on them.”
At the school gates, parents – many donning masks – delivered their children with mixed emotions.
At Charles Dickens Primary School in Southwark, south London, youngsters returned to class with a range of measures in place, including staggered start times and segregated lunch breaks. The school’s headteacher said that although some parents were nervous, many were pleased to have their children back in education after months of being at home.
Mother Odetta Patterson, from Southwark, who has two children aged four and six, said: “I was quite worried, to be honest. And now they’re in I feel quite safe. The school has done a great job and it’s for the best.
“My eldest has missed his friends since March and wanted to go back.”
Teachers at Bishop Road Primary School in Bristol welcomed back more than 800 children as the new school year began. Arrivals were split into two groups – before and after 9am – to allow staff to direct youngsters to the correct room.
Many schools tested pupils’ temperatures on arrival, with the plan that any youngster who showed signs of a fever would be turned away.
Most used handheld thermometers pointed at foreheads but some have introduced thermal imaging cameras that can measure up to 30 pupils a second. Almost 80 percent of schools have also installed extra sinks for handwashing, while hand-sanitising stations have been installed at classroom entrances.
The Department for Education said pupils must wash their hands on arrival, after breaks and before and after eating.