Politics

What school will be like after lockdown with scheduled toilet breaks and no toys


Their friends will look the same, their teachers’ faces familiar and their lessons will continue – but Britain’s primary pupils face an alien landscape when they return to the classroom.

The artwork that once adorned the walls will have been torn down, their desks spaced two metres apart and toys, Lego blocks and even old fashioned counting beads will have disappeared.

Lunchtimes will be spent at desks, outside play equipment cordoned off, toilet times will be scheduled and contact with teachers so limited that they won’t even be able to put a plaster on a child who falls over.

This will be the sterile reality of life in the UK’s 1,363 primaries when they open in June.

And teachers fear it will have a huge emotional impact on kids.

Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson setting out the Government’s plans for schools

One East Yorkshire teacher said: “We are worried how this will affect children’s mental health and also educational outcomes.

“I’m concerned that parents are not being made aware of what education will look like and that their child’s experience will be far from normal.

“Children have already undergone a lot of disruption and, at a time when we wish we could return to our normal routines in order to reassure them, I fear this will only unsettle them further.”

Health Secretary Gavin Williamson has left it to individual schools to have “flexibility” to follow Government guidelines, which mirror the approach of schools in Denmark which started a phased return in April.

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Head teachers now face the headache of making their schools safe for reception and Year One and Six primary classes and in just two weeks.

Even simple children’s toys may be a thing of the past (stock image)

The guidelines suggest schools introduce one-way systems for kids, divide corridors to keep them apart and stagger breaks as well as arrival and home times so parents don’t congregate.

It’s also advised youngsters are placed into small gangs of friends who will not be allowed to mix with other sets or different years.

Constant hand-washing will be in place when kids arrive, come in from play and before and after eating.

The guidelines state: “Consider how to encourage young children to learn and practice these habits through games, songs and repetition.”

One head teacher this week took the unusual move of spelling out the changes to parents on her school website, writing: “Some of the parents who want their child to return have stated this is for their mental health and well-being.

“This worries me more as I do feel some of the measures I will have to take will completely work against this.”

And children may have to sit further apart than this to meet social distancing requirements (stock image)

In a list of changes, headed ‘The Truths’, headteacher Marianne Allan, of Cambois Primary School in Blyth, Northumberland, told parents that all unnecessary furniture and equipment will be removed, teachers will not be allowed to sit beside pupils who need help and lunches will be eaten in classrooms.

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Ms Allan said children who fall over or have a toilet accident will be encouraged to change themselves or clean their scrape or cut. Otherwise parents will have to collect them.

In a poignant message she wrote: “Today I looked at a memory on my phone.

“It was from a year ago today when some girls in year 4 and 5 made me the most beautiful table for my lunch, it was covered in lip gloss to smell nice and full of sparkle and jewels.

“This is the school I miss. These are the activities we hope to resume.

“This will NOT be possible in June. This is the school we want to see back, where children run up and hug their teachers and friends.

“The school children can walk safely around a building without measures or go to the toilet without supervision and for them to be cleaned afterwards.”

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The Government has prioritised reception and Year one learners because they are learning “basic essentials” and Year Six so they can prepare for the move to High School.

In Secondaries, Year 10 and 11 will get some “face-to-face” time with teachers.

But one primary teacher in Bridlington said: “The classrooms will be striped bare of any joy.

“Art work will be banned from the wall, resources like counting bricks and beads will be banned to stop the spread of the virus.

“Our school has made the decision not to mark exercise books for 24 hours just to be safe.

“it’s so sad because there will be no toys for the little ones in reception and we won’t even be able to help them take bottle lids off their juice if they struggle.

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“I don’t say this to make parents feel guilty because I know some have no choice but to send their children, but they have a right to know what the reality will be.”

Mr Williamson set out plans for the reopening of schools next month at the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing on Saturday.

He said children in reception, year 1 and 6 – as well as years 10 and 12 – can go back to school in smaller class sizes as part of a phased return.

“They stand to lose more by staying away from school,” he said.

He praised teachers for “going above and beyond the call of duty” for continuing to teach children of key workers, as well as making sure resources were available at home for children at home.

“You have simply been outstanding and we are so grateful for what you’ve done,” he said.

“We have been quite clear all along that we’d only start inviting more children when our five key tests have been met. That position has not changed nor will it.”

He also sought to reassure parents worried about children returning to school that the Government’s approach is based on the “best scientific advice with children at the very heart of everything we do”.





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