Final touches as Shropshire teachers prepare for new term
Lining up more than 1,000 children to have their temperature checked before taking them, socially distanced, to class.
It might sound like a stressful military-grade operation to the average Joe. But Burton Borough School head teacher Krissi Carter is full of confidence ahead of the return next week.
“It might be a bit tricky at first, but once everyone knows where to line up, they’ll get used to it quite quickly,” she said.
Teachers up and down the land have been making their final classroom preparations as they get ready to welcome all children back for the first time since the beginning of lockdown.
Temperature checks, keeping year groups separate and having to fork out cash for safety equipment have been among the challenges, but staff at the Newport school are looking forward to being back.
“It’s been very challenging but it’s exciting as well,” added Krissi.
“Having to implement all the changes, especially when the government guidance sometimes changes on an hourly basis, not even a daily basis, it does make things difficult.”
Extra signage, hand sanitiser and plastic screens make the school look a very different environment than usual. But with such measures in place in shops, attractions and various other places, it is hoped that it will feel relatively normal to youngsters.
“A huge amount of this is about mitigating risk and following guidelines,” said Krissi. “Until we put the plan in place and get the kids back in, we won’t really know how it will work.
“Our plan is to keep it simple, go steady and don’t try and do too much. We’ll see how it’s working and make changes if we need to.”
One significant benefit Burton Burough has implemented after the virus outbreak has been online lessons. During lockdown, teachers taught using Microsoft Teams, and children who are self-isolating will still be able to watch and take part in lessons via video from the new term into the future.
Krissi said: “Some staff were really comfortable with it, but others found it very challenging. But we’ve got to a stage where everyone is using it. It’s good that we’ve been able to get it set up because it will benefit everyone in the long term. The way we look at it, coronavirus isn’t going anywhere, so we need to have a contingency plan if there’s a local lockdown.
“We’re one of only six per cent of state schools in the country who have been able to get the online lessons set up. The kids have grown up with this kind of technology so they have taken to it well. Outside of the school there’s also the issue of making sure the students have a laptop or something to watch the lessons on.”
After a U-turn by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week, schools are encouraged to allow children to wear face masks. Burton Borough made the decision earlier and Krissi, a Hong Konger, believes they’ll become a way of life here as they are in many parts of the Far East.
She said: “We made the decision well before lockdown that people could wear face masks. Our parents and students can decide if they want to wear them.
“It’s seen as normal to wear them because people still remember the Sars outbreak from the early 2000s. People in the Far East are a bit more cautious. You even see toddlers wearing them and they don’t fiddle with them. I’m sure if they can do it, we can do it here. I think it will just become a way of life here.”
Costly PPE that schools have had to buy in could weigh heavy on their finances. Burton Borough has provided enough PPE for all staff to wear it if they want, at significant expense.
“It’s very costly. We’re talking thousands of pounds. We are lucky in that we’re in a strong position financially, but I feel for colleagues in other schools that aren’t.
“It’s money that could have been used for more staff, resources or text books, so the kids will miss out on that. We’re not getting any help from the government on that. We’ve been able to budget to buy this equipment, but not every school will be able to.”
There is also the brutal reality of the pandemic to take into consideration – how illness, redundancies and the loss of loved ones could impact children.
“For some people it will be the first time they’ve been out after shielding,” said Krissi. “There are some members of staff who have lost people, and there will be children who have been affected. They might not necessarily have lost someone, but a parent may have been made redundant. These are things we need to think about.
“It’s going to be different but we’re going to try and keep things as normal as possible.”
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