How schools across Yorkshire are preparing to welcome children back into classrooms

Schools across the region have revealed the new safety measures they have put in place as they prepare to welcome back all pupils and staff this week.

Schools are beginning to return in England and Wales this week with a mix of starting dates, but the return of students in secondary schools and colleges will be staggered due to the logistics of mass testing.

Astrea Academy Woodfields, a secondary school and sixth form in Doncaster, has implemented staggered start and finish times for every year group through out the week and has asked all students to bring reusable masks to be worn in the classroom where it is impossible for pupils to keep two metres apart.

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The school, which caters for more than 700 pupils, has also purchased a large batch of face coverings for students who forget and will show videos in the school to demonstrate the importance of wearing the masks.

Outwood Primary Academy, Brandy Carr Road, Kirkhamgate, Wakefield. Libby Riley and Daniel Akindipe are pictured sanatising there hands at the school..5th March 2021. Photo credit: Simon Hulme/JPIMediaResell

Adam Atkinson, the headteacher for Astrea Academy Woodfields, told The Yorkshire Post. "It's about keeping staff, students and their parents at home and families safe, it's just an extra layer that we're putting in."

Mr Atkinson, who took over in his leadership role at the start of the pandemic in March last year, said these are just a number of measures introduced by the school as it starts face-to-face teaching on Thursday 11 March, and adapts to a new way of working amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Schools aren't the same without students in them. It's about getting them back in and learning with quality face-to-face teaching again," he said. "There is a buzz in the air about coming back into school. We know the best place for students and staff is in schools."

In regards to testing students, lateral flow tests will be carried out by a team of 10 trained staff from the Astrea Academy Trust, a family of 29 schools across South Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire.

Testers in the covid testing centre set up at Astrea Academy Woodfields in Balby, Doncaster to test the students welcomed back after the latest covid lockdown. Photo credit: Tony Johnson/JPIMediaResell

Elsewhere, the bubble system returns for students - with reduced movement of pupils around schools, with classes and year groups staying in designated zones, while their individual subject teachers come to them to teach - with a one-way system in place.

While each classroom has been kitted out with a sanitation station where students will wash their hands to limit the potential spread of the virus. As an extra measure they have also introduced "roaming cleaners" - that move throughout the day and give extra cleans and deep cleans throughout.

Many children have been the hidden victims of the coronavirus pandemic, with further pressures on their mental health since the start of the third lockdown.

With this in mind, Mr Atkinson stressed that student's mental health will be a "priority," and extra measures have been put in place to aid well-being including educational psychologists in placed and increased counselling team members.

Head teacher Adam Atkinson at the covid testing centre set up at Astrea Academy Woodfields in Balby, Doncaster, to test the students welcomed back after the latest civid lockdown. Photo credit: Tony Johnson/JPIMediaResell

"We aim to settle students straight away... There is a big push on the well-being," he said. "We also need to assess any gaps - not just educationally, but also socially and to check mentally how they are developing."

He added: "It is now time students come back into schools to get that face-to-face support that they need."

In West Yorkshire Outwood Primary Academy Kirkhamgate, a primary school in Wakefield, safety measures include hand sanitiser in every area and external sinks to support hand washing, regular "deep cleans of the school" and increased emphasis.

Emphasis has also been placed on ventilation through out the school and a focus on outdoor learning, where possible.

Outwood Primary Academy, Brandy Carr Road, Kirkhamgate, Wakefield. Pupils Annabelle Guthrie and Rhys Bassett with Principal Emma Abbott pictured at the school..5th March 2021. Photo credit: Simon Hulme/JPIMediaResell

Principal Emma Abbot said: "Getting children back in the classroom is a really important step and we are really eager and excited to get them back, but we need to do this as safely as possible.

Other measures include a one-way system in the school and adults wearing masks in communal areas and where two metre distancing can't be maintained.

While all classrooms have also been rearranged to ensure desks now face forward.

Across Outwood Grange Academies Trust, which operates 34 academies across northern England and the East Midlands, including 10 primary academies, mental health has also been a major focus since the start of the pandemic.

At primary school level this has included a morning and afternoon online check-in, and the trust will continue to support mental health with weekly sessions in school.

Ms Abbot said: "Monday is a continuation of what is happening today.

"For us it's about doing all the usual things that we would do next week - look at where they are and look at next steps for individuals and how we move them forward."

Meanwhile on the North Yorkshire coast at Newby and Scalby Primary School in Scarborough to ensure a smooth return an informative ‘welcome back’ video was released to students parents and carers, last week, including a tour of the Covid testing station, so students know what to expect.

Headteacher, Chris Kirkham-Knowles, said: "The main aim is to get children happily settled into familiar school routines so that teachers and support staff can find out what the curriculum will need to look like for the rest of this academic year and beyond, if necessary."

He added it was "vital" the school, took that we take a long-term view of what children after the disruption caused over the last year.

"The face masks that staff will be wearing on Monday will not disguise their massive commitment towards getting children prepared for the next stage of learning during the rest of this academic year," Mr Kirkham-Knowles said.

He added: "Each day, I am in awe of something that I witness a member of staff doing to support an individual or group of children and I know that will continue into the future."

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