Finally, we have reached step one of the roadmap out of lockdown. Or at least part one of step one, allowing schools to open fully.
For many parents, no doubt, that’s one of the most urgent hurdles out of the way – particularly for those who are also trying to hold down a full-time job working from home.
The next stages over the months ahead will be welcome relief to us all, and no doubt the average teacher will be as pleased to see pubs and restaurants open as everyone else. But there are also some steps, more unique to schools – primary schools in particular – that haven’t featured on the national roadmap, but which will no doubt be markers on our way.
An alternative roadmap out of Covid lockdown
So, here’s the alternative roadmap I’d like to see.
Schools open to all pupils, albeit with lots of restrictions in place. Remote learning becomes an occasional nuisance, rather than the routine course of life in school.
Sadly, the terminology of “bubbles” remains very much with us, as staff try to corral hundreds of children through the building – and the timetable – without too much contact.
Step one, part II
Evidence shows that it’s safer for people to meet outdoors. So, from this stage, children are able to socialise on the playground with others from outside their bubble.
Equipment will remain strictly timetabled, no doubt, but with any luck this stage might also coincide with a drier spell, bringing those most delightful words to all in school: the field is open at breaktimes.
As the risk more widely reduces, there is hope that we’ll be able to bring back some of the much-mourned absences from the school day – including singing. At first, it might be limited to just within our class bubbles, but what a joy it will be when we can finally hear children’s voices echoing through the school building once again.
Hopefully, this point might also see a relaxation on the rules about tables facing the front. As it happens, I prefer it most of the time, but it would be nice not to be so restricted.
With cases on the wane, more and more facilities outside school opening and increasing confidence about the effectiveness of vaccines, hopefully it won’t be long then before we can bring our whole school community back together.
We might have to have an interim stage of large group assemblies before we can squeeze hundreds of pupils into a school hall, but I think the first assembly with everyone back together will be when I first feel like we’re really coming out the other side of this ordeal.
If nightclubs are open, then surely almost all normality returns. By then, hopefully we’ll see a return of trips out of school, and even the much-missed residential visit.
Too many children have missed out on that opportunity already. The sooner we can see residential visits back on the school calendar, the better. Although for many families right now, simply sending their children back to school for six hours will seem like a separation, so we may have some work to do on getting them away overnight.
Just before lockdown in March 2020, I promised my Year 6 cohort that we would still have some sort of leaving event for them, in some form. I was able to hold good on that promise – and thankfully by July. But it still wasn’t the normal send-off we’d have seen.
So, let’s keep our fingers crossed that by the end of this academic year, we’re able to organise full leavers’ events, including getting their families together to say a proper goodbye – both to them, and to the most trying of academic years.
Michael Tidd is headteacher at East Preston Junior School in West Sussex. He tweets @MichaelT1979