Return to school ‘easier’ than after the first lockdown, says parent

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A mother has said her children’s return to school after the latest lockdown in England was easier than after the first one last year because the family are now “used to the new normal”.

Office manager Rianne Mills, 33, said her sons’ school in Shipdham, Norfolk, held virtual tours of the classroom so her boys, Henry Cheetham, eight, and five-year-old Freddie Mills knew what to expect.

Thomas Bullock Church of England Primary Academy, which is part of the Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust, said 99% of pupils attended on Monday.

Coronavirus – Mon Mar 8, 2021
Children in class at Thomas Bullock Church of England Primary Academy in Shipdham, Norfolk (Joe Giddens/PA)

“They did a virtual tour so they’ve shown photos and videos of how the classroom is set up, explaining things, explaining procedures.

“The boys are quite prepared, I think. They had all different videos of where they’ll sit and things like that, how things will go.”

The single mother was furloughed during the most recent lockdown as she home-schooled her sons, and said she is looking forward to some normality.

She said the boys were a “little bit nervous” about returning to school but “super-excited” to see their friends.

Coronavirus – Mon Mar 8, 2021
A pupil uses hand sanitiser as she arrives at Thomas Bullock Church of England Primary Academy in Shipdham, Norfolk (Joe Giddens/PA)

“I think the first time we were so anxious, really worried, really scared, but I think knowing all the procedures they’ve put in beforehand has made it easier this time,” she said.

“We know the children are going to be safe, we know exactly what the score is this time, we know what they’ve got in place, and I think we’ve just got used to the new normal, if that makes sense.”

The school has almost 200 pupils aged between four and 11, and between 25% and 30% of them attended through lockdown when it was only open to vulnerable and keyworker children.

Headteacher Shannon O’Sullivan said: “We know that some of the children will be slightly nervous.

Coronavirus – Mon Mar 8, 2021
Ninety-nine percent of pupils attended as the school reopened on Monday (Joe Giddens/PA)

She said she felt it was “absolutely perfect timing” for children to return to school.

“We’ve been tracking the numbers of Covid cases in our community throughout this period and we’re down so much now that we absolutely know that this is the best place for our children as far as the safety of them and continuing their learning,” she said.

Children queued in socially-distanced lines outside and washed their hands at special hygiene stations before going into class, with all staff wearing masks.

Coronavirus – Mon Mar 8, 2021
(left to right) Freddie Bridgman, Jaylen White and Jacob Yeoman in class at Thomas Bullock Church of England Primary Academy in Shipdham, Norfolk (Joe Giddens/PA)

Businesswoman Victoria Proctor, 37, said her two sons, seven-year-old James and Reuben, five, were “a little bit nervous” about returning to school but were looking forward to seeing their friends.

“Last week they wore their uniforms to kind of get back into the swing of things,” she added.

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