'These children are not going to be a lost generation,' insists head teacher as Northumberland schools return after lockdown
Thousands of pupils across Northumberland have returned to school for the first time in more than two months.
Among them were the 56 pupils of Hugh Joicey First School in Ford, which is one of the smallest schools in the county.
Jacqueline Dalrymple, headteacher at the school, said: “Some of our children haven’t been in since before Christmas so we are absolutely delighted to have everybody back at school.
“We’ve got a full turnout of children and we’re so pleased because it’s so important for them to be back at school, re-establishing friendships and building up their learning. We’re looking forward to a good term.”
The reopening of schools to all pupils marks the first stage of the Government's roadmap out of the national lockdown, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the return as an important first step towards a ‘sense of normality.
Up to 40% of the school roll at Ford has actually been attending school during lockdown, with the rest supported with home learning.
“We’ve had staff in school on a rota and teaching from home,” explained Mrs Dalrymple. “The children have been provided with at least four hours of lessons a day including face-to-face social catch-ups once a week.”
A number of measures have been introduced to make the school as Covid secure as possible.
First school pupils are not required to be tested or wear face masks but staff are being tested twice a week.
Mrs Dalrymple told the Northumberland Gazette: “We’re a small school so we only have one bubble but they are taught in three separate classes, we’ve got staggered break times and they will eat in the same groups as they are taught in so the only time they mix is when they are outside.
"We’ve also got supervised hand-washing on entry to school, before and after break times and at home time so that’s at least eight times a day which, as you can imagine, takes quite a lot of time.”
She continued: "We’re not really expected to keep them all separate in class. You can’t keep them all socially distanced but we’ve got hand gel in all the classrooms and we’re doing things like wiping the tables down between lessons and instead of sharing a pot of pencils they all have their own which has everything they need in it.
"We are trying to keep things as normal as possible so the first week back is all about re-establishing friendships and routines.
"We’re confident that with the online support we’ve provided during lockdown and the fantastic efforts parents have put in to help at home that these children are not going to be a lost generation.
"We are more concerned for our Year 4 children moving on to middle school who have missed out on opportunities such as residentials, school trips and the leadership skills they would otherwise have had. Their experience has been much narrower but we’re working closely with the middle schools to make sure they’re ready for going there.”