Brackenbury Primary School pupils holding their rainbow drawings

Primary headteachers describe ‘amazing efforts’ to bring more children back into school

Headteachers across H&F have expressed their gratitude to parents and pupils as they described their efforts to bring back more children safely in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.

With many having remained open to priority groups of children (including those of keyworkers) throughout the pandemic, schools have been conducting robust risk assessments ahead of the wider opening. This have been done in line with Department of Education guidance to ensure the safety and protection of children, staff and adults.

Paying tribute to all school teachers and staff in H&F, Cllr Larry Culhane, H&F Cabinet Member for Children and Education, said: “We are truly grateful to teachers and school staff for their unprecedented efforts throughout lockdown. They have ensured schools remained open, even throughout the holidays, allowing key workers to stay on the frontline, whilst also running a remote school for those who have been unable to attend.

“No one knows their schools better than our teachers, school staff and governors, and they have been tackling the massive challenge of transitioning children back into school safely with dedication and care.

“The achievements of our schools through the pandemic were only possible thanks to families up and down Hammersmith & Fulham, who have kept their children engaged with remote education while working from home, caring for others and coping with the tragic consequences of COVID-19.” 

Changes

One-way systems, social distancing and staggered times at the start and end of the day are among a raft of changes to the normal school day, with children grouped into ‘bubbles’ for separate classes as they sit at separate desks.

This bubble system also applies to the children of keyworkers, who are taught separately to the Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils which have now returned.

But despite the new systems in place and new rules to adhere to, headteachers say pupils have responded with ‘enthusiasm, good humour, and excitement’ as they head back to the classroom, while parents have been ‘very supportive and understanding’.

David Collins, headteacher at Brackenbury Primary School in Hammersmith, said the new school day begins every morning with children lining up in their designated areas outside the school gates.

“The children have already shown us how amazing they are at following all the social distancing and hygiene procedures that we have put in place,” he said.

This new way of learning may take some getting used to though, as children cannot necessarily play with their friends due to the class bubbles. “This has been hard for them, but they are still happy to come in each day,” he added.

Blended learning

School staff have spent a large amount of time and resources on reopening, with Jessica Mair, headteacher at John Betts primary in Hammersmith, hailing the ‘amazing efforts’ from staff and how that created ‘an exceptionally smooth transition.

With primary schools only open to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils, it means staff are having to juggle a new approach to ‘blended’ learning.

This allows for some school staff to work with pupils who are able to attend, as well as those that are supporting pupils learning from home.

“We have a really strong remote learning programme which has been running successfully at the same – and this does require the teachers to be quite hands-on across to make sure everyone is educated,” added Jessica.

Children's rainbow art displayed on the inside of a classroom window
Image caption: The new way of learning may take some getting used to

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