Schools back in Saffron Walden and district but many parents keep children at home

Chiildren returning to school at R A Butler Academy in Saffron Walden. Picture: R A BUTLER

Chiildren returning to school at R A Butler Academy in Saffron Walden. Picture: R A BUTLER - Credit: Archant

It was schools back for most primary schools on Monday but many parents decided to keep their children at home.

Headteachers have praised parents for a smooth return to school this week.

The government sanctioned return for children in reception and years one and six.

Though most parents decided to keep their children at home, for those returning, the transition went well.

At Katherine Semar in Saffron Walden, under half the number of pupils returned. At Thomas More Catholic Primary School, most of the year sixes were back and a good number of year one and reception. At R A Butler, the returners were 25 per cent.

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At Katherine Semar, youngsters are being taught just nine children to a classroom. At all schools, children will spend their day in small groups “bubbles” so that they are with the same people, including staff, the whole time for learning, play and staggered lunches.

Government guidelines are no more than 15 in a bubble.

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At Katherine Semar, Deb Pawson said on Tuesday: “It’s a bit different but it’s working. The children are really happy to be back, seeing their teachers face to face, instead of via various different links and seeing friends. The parents said the children had a good day.”

At Thomas More Catholic Primary School, the temperature is being taken of every child as they arrive and parents too if they come into school.

Most of the year sixes and the year ones returned on Monday. They will attend on alternate weeks.

The reception class is smaller so they can to go to school every week, but the younger children, in reception and year one, will finish school before lunchtime.

There are also two bubbles for keyworkers’ children who have been at school throughout the lockdown.

A school spokesman said on Tuesday: “The children were really, really happy to be back. You could tell because they were so happy to be back again today.”

At Ashdown Primary, a small, village school, one out of the three reception children had returned and joined the two returners in year one where there are normally 10 pupils.

Eight of the 15 children in year six were back. There is also another bubble of six keyworkers’ children who have been there throughout the lockdown.

Head Simon Rance said: “We can still only get 10 in a room because the two-metre distance has to be all around.

“Usually children sit in groups. They have had to adjust to sitting at a specific desk all day and to return to that same desk after breaks. The classes look like a Victorian schoolroom - but they are happy to be back.”

At R A Butler School in Saffron Walden, one of the largest schools in the district, which usually has 620 pupils, head Emma Vincent said 25 per cent of the children were back.

She said: “It’s been lovely, we’ve had really smiley faces, happy to be here. It’s been a lovely start.”

The biggest section in the school are the 80 children of keyworkers who have been at the school throughout the lockdown - they are in eight classes.

Mrs Vincent said: “It’s been a phased approach. The parents have been brilliant. We’ve had a staggered start, a one-way system, three different entrances and separate exit points.

“It’s been a really combined effort with parents, children and staff. Everyone’s done their best to make it work. I can’t praise the staff highly enough. It’s all been very, very positive.”

She added that home-learning was continuing for children not yet able to return to school under government guidelines.

“The year groups who can’t come want know when they can come back. They are anxious to know, as we are, what’s the next phase and what is going to happen in September. We don’t know what September will look like, especially if social distancing is still in place.

“People ask us and we don’t know the answer. We found out about the lockdown at the same time as everyone else, when the Prime Minister announced it.

“But we’ve all got very good at technology- it’s been a big learning curve.”

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