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‘Pleased to get back to some form of normality’ - verdict as students return to school

PUBLISHED: 11:50 16 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:50 16 June 2020

Students returned to face-to-face lessons at Ipswich Academy for the first time in several weeks following the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: IPSWICH ACADEMY

Students returned to face-to-face lessons at Ipswich Academy for the first time in several weeks following the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: IPSWICH ACADEMY

Archant

Young people in Suffolk were “pleased to get back to some form of normality” after returning to secondary school for the first time in 12 weeks following the Covid-19 lockdown.

Ipswich Academy lessons looked a little different when Year 10s and 12s returned on Monday. Picture: IPSWICH ACADEMYIpswich Academy lessons looked a little different when Year 10s and 12s returned on Monday. Picture: IPSWICH ACADEMY

All schools were forced to close in March to everyone except the children of key workers in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

Since then schools have provided home learning programmes for children - and while many have reported success, some have highlighted the limitations and a ‘digital divide’, where some young people do not have access to the technology needed.

Copleston High School principal Andy Green said Year 10s and 12s who returned on Monday, June 15 were “pleased to get back to some form of normality - that was made very clear by a lot of the students”.

MORE: What do secondary schools look like post-lockdown?

Desks in classrooms at Copleston have been spaced out, according to social distancing guidelines. Picture: COPLESTON HIGH SCHOOLDesks in classrooms at Copleston have been spaced out, according to social distancing guidelines. Picture: COPLESTON HIGH SCHOOL

The lessons they returned to were very different from the last face-to-face sessions they had in March - social distancing requirements mean they have to stay in ‘bubbles’ of about 10, with only 25 A-level students and up to 75 Year 10s allowed in school at any one time.

At Copleston, the students are doing shorter, staggered days to ensure they don’t mix with other ‘bubbles’ - and no-one is able to wander around the corridors, as they must follow a strict one-way system on their ways in and out.

But Mr Green said: “Some degree of normality has been good for the students, both in terms of getting clarification on complex parts of their work, asking questions and having the opportunity to see some of their peers.”

He also believes returning, even if it is for only one day a week at this stage, will have huge benefits to students’ wellbeing.

Extra hand sanitisers have been placed around Copleston High School. Picture: COPLESTON HIGH SCHOOLExtra hand sanitisers have been placed around Copleston High School. Picture: COPLESTON HIGH SCHOOL

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“However driven you are as a student, having to work in isolation at home is tricky,” he said.

“In the same way people in the work environment enthuse and motivate each other, students do the same.”

Ipswich Academy has 10 ‘pods’ of between nine and 11 students, with each pod studying four 80-minute lessons throughout the day.

There will be timetabled lessons on four days of the week, with the fifth day being available for - by pre-arrangement only - additional time in school for some students.

“That’s what we feel we owe the local community,” said assistant principal Abbie Thorrington, who takes over the top job from current leader Helen Winn on Monday, June 22.

MORE: Former pro triathlete to take over as school principal

“Some of them might not have a quiet space at home to study. We can also provide additional resources in school.”

Ms Thorrington, who even spent time personally spraying 500 dots around the school to ensure students keep to social distancing requirements, said the coronavirus crisis has “put increased pressure on parents and carers”.

She said some young people were “incredibly nervous to return”, adding: “It’s been 12 weeks since they’ve last been in school, and now we’re asking them to keep apart.”

However she said they relaxed as the day progressed and praised both the young people and the parents for their support, as well as teachers - who she said had done “incredible work behind the scenes” to prepare the school for reopening.


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