Almost half a term in and going well!
We are now almost half a term into the new school term and things are going well. The children are enjoying their time in school, they are used to doing things in different ways and they have settled back in really well. Gradually, we are bringing back more and more of the things the children used to do and, most importantly, the things that they used to enjoy to make sure that their time at school once again puts a smile on their face!
What has changed?
Not that much in the eyes of the children and that is exactly what we want them to think because primary school is not supposed to be a place of rules that are difficult to live by; we have worked hard to make sure that the things that we have put in place are easy for the children to get right.
In the classrooms (except Early Years), most of the children are sitting facing the front, with some facing the side of the classroom due to room size constraints. The good news here is that it is far easier for them to see the whiteboard and therefore engage in their learning! From looking in on the classrooms, I am also happy to be able to say that the children are still smiling, working together and enjoying their learning.
In Early Years, the more tactile furniture has been moved out and adjustments have been made throughout the classroom. But with fifteen children, toilets within the classroom and a fenced off outside area, in many ways it is quite simply learning as usual for our youngest class, which is exactly what they need.
There is increased hand washing and sanitising (as I am sure you would expect) every time they enter and leave the classroom but, on the positive side, they are getting a lot quicker and more thorough with this.
The main corridor has been split up into sections with flexible partitions that remain in place unless staff need access or a class needs to access the hall. The great thing about this is it gives each class bubble access to its own unisex toilet cubicles and means that children do not mix with children from other bubbles. Best of all, it makes it easy for the children to get right!
Breaktime Cafe is still available and is even better now as it is delivered straight to the children in their classroom, just like room service! (A big thank you to our School Cook Mrs Maddox for that!) Lunchtimes are a little different, but not much. All children eat at midday, with our Year 5 and 6 children showing their maturity by collecting their own lunch from the School Kitchen and walking it back to their classroom to enjoy with their classmates (although we are currently acquiring insulated bags so that we are ready to drop their lunches off to them in the classroom as the weather worsens). Peacocks children are currently benefiting from room service to the classroom where they are eating and the hall has been divided by joined-up partition boards to create two separate areas with a linking corridor so that both our Reception and our Year 1 and 2 children can enjoy their food in the hall. The great thing about lunchtime in good weather is that after they have finished eating, all of the children are able to be on the school field at the same time as we have divided it up into different areas for each class bubble. This is so important as it allows all children, especially our little Puffins in Reception, to see every child each lunchtime and to understand that the school is bigger than just their class. It also lets them see the child they just saw on a digital Google Meet assembly and to realise that in addition to being on a screen, they are actually at the school in person as well.
Assemblies themselves have been a learning curve and it took a few efforts to get our Friday Celebration Assembly up and running in a digital world. It currently looks more like a socially distanced TV studio than an assembly, but I think it is fair to say that the children are coping admirably and perfecting the skill of speaking into two cameras (one that links into a Google Meet so that the rest of the school can see them and one that films it to go on to the website for the families of our school community to enjoy at home) instead of a live audience. Understanding where to stand in a socially distanced assembly and how to project your voice to a camera are just two of the new skills that they are mastering, not to mention doing this in a breeze with multiple doors and windows being open throughout!
What has come back?
As much as we are currently able to bring back is the short answer. Music lessons are back! These are taking place in the school hall with clear markings for the children to stay behind and for Mrs Johnson, our music teacher, to be able to safely maintain a two metre distance. The positive here is that the children know exactly where they need to be and now that we are almost half a term in it is something they just do which means they can enjoy learning about music and using instruments that much more. To further reduce any risks, the instruments are in class bubble groups so only one bubble ever uses a specific set of instruments each week.
Violin lessons for individuals and our Year 3 children are back as well, taking place in the Life Learning Room with a three metre distance in place and good ventilation. Again, the children know exactly where they need to be and don't seem to mind the breeze yet, which means they are free to focus on enjoying learning how to play an instrument.
Piano lessons are also back with safety measures again in place and with lessons again taking place in the Life Learning Room.
Breakfast Club is also back (and easy to book onto through the clubs section on our new Arbor app) from 8:00-8:45/8:55am each morning. By removing much of the furniture that used to live in the Life Learning Room (the hall stage has never been so cluttered!) there is now space for us to create four separate areas to accommodate each class bubble with a two metre distance between them. Most importantly, with numbers of children attending on the lower side at the moment, children from different bubbles can all talk to each other from a safe distance. As you can see the Life Learning Room is being used a lot more now, which isn't a problem as we have increased the frequency of cleaning in there during the day to make sure that it is disinfected ready to be used for the next activity or by the next group.
Library lessons are also back. These always took place for different class bubbles at different times anyway and, as we recently added a number of new titles to the school library for each of our age phases, the children are barely aware that they can only access their own section in their session. They also seem to quite like the addition of the wipe-clean cushions to establish a 2 metre distance between them and Mrs Nowland. Again, it makes it easy for the children to do the right thing and the cushions brighten everyone's day as they are colourful and fun to look at!
Lunchtime sports clubs with Mr Sinclair are also back. These are bubble clubs with lots of fun to be had and a great opportunity to make closer bonds with classmates while also improving health and fitness.
Swimming wasn't possible this term, but we haven't given up on it and have instead, with the help of Hitchin Swimming Centre, managed to switch it to the summer term instead this year. Our Year 3 and 4 children are provisionally set to go swimming from Easter through to the May half term and our Year 1 and 2 children are provisionally set to go from the May half term through to the end of the summer term. In many ways this makes good sense, as all four of these year groups will then swim again in the autumn term of 2021, meaning that due to the changes there is actually more of a continuous block of swimming than usual this year.
With Covid friendly Celebration assemblies already back each week, a special Harvest video is planned to be put together and added to the website, in place of our usual assembly, later this month. I can also assure you that planning is already underway to ensure that Christmas will happen this year at Wymondley. It will of course be Covid secure and will require some thinking outside of the box on our part, but that is what we will do. It will be different, but we will make sure that we put a smile on the faces of everyone in our school community this December!