Reopening seven North West Academies Trust primary schools across Cheshire and Shropshire has proved a ‘positive and uplifting’ experience for pupils and parents.
That’s according to CEO Steve Docking, who says it is business as usual after children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 were allowed to return to lessons on Monday.
While many schools schools have remained closed to everyone aside from vulnerable children and key workers’ children, North West Academies Trust (NWAT) has followed guidance from the DfE to get the phased return to the classroom under way.
Children have been split into ‘bubbles’ of 15 or less, and adhere to staggered play times, drop-offs and pick-ups to make sure they do not meet with other groups.
Now the stellar learning experience at Grosvenor Park Academy, St Martin’s Academy and Acresfield Primary School in Chester; Oak View Academy, Weaverham Primary Academy and Delamere CofE Academy in Mid Cheshire, and Ellesmere Primary School, Shropshire, has recommenced.
And Mr Docking says, despite the challenges, it has gone well.
“Anxiety levels do exist amongst parents and staff, but all those who attended this week so far have returned home incredibly happy with what they have seen,” he said.
“The children have left with smiles on their faces and the positivity about reopening is there for all to see, and it has been uplifting for those who have been able to attend.
“In preparation, we worked incredibly closely with the headteachers to come up with solutions, identify possibilities and highlight the probabilities of what could happen.
“We have also worked with our unions, with whom we have close relationships, to form the risk assessments that made sure we were ready to open on Monday.
“In reality, you cannot keep children two metres apart at all times of the day. But you can make sure that they are safe in the classrooms, that they wash their hands and all the guidance is followed, and you work through it to make sure they are safe and cared for.
“Being back at school is a positive experience for the children. They will have seen the news on TV, but they have wanted to come back to school and they go home happy. We alleviate stress rather than create it.
“The schools have done a fantastic job, I couldn’t ask for any more from our headteachers.
“All we can do is follow the guidance and make sure children are safe to the best of our ability.”
Schools across the country have been shut down since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic, with many preparing to begin their phased reopening next week.
Children not in the age groups now permitted to attend will continue to receive daily video messages and learning packs from their teachers.
Chester-based NWAT runs the seven primary schools plus Rudheath Senior Academy, in Northwich, which joined at the end of 2018.
Delamere Academy, and Acresfield Primary School are ranked first and second respectively in West Cheshire’s performance tables, while St Martin’s Academy is the most over-subscribed primary in the borough.