Year 10 students back in the classroom at Tollbar Academy with two-metre social distancing in place.
Year 10 students returned to school last week for some face-to-face contact with teachers, and at Tollbar Academy children have been praising the measures put in place to ensure their safety.
Extensive risk assessments have been undertaken at all seven schools within Tollbar Multi Academy Trust where the children of key workers and those who are vulnerable have continued to be educated throughout the three-month long crisis.
The prospect of more children returning to school has been welcomed wholeheartedly by teachers at the Academy who all agree that face-to-face contact and the reassurance, guidance and support of a teacher cannot be replaced by online learning, no matter how helpful virtual learning can be. At present, a percentage of Year 10 students at Tollbar Academy are back in the classroom. They are being taught in small groups, with social distancing measures and additional hygiene routines in place.
All seven TMAT schools have remained open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children throughout the Easter and May holidays, including Bank Holidays. Staff at Tollbar Academy have been working hard throughout this period, supporting and teaching the children who have been attending school; contacting students at home to ensure support has been given when it is needed, and setting work and giving feedback using the Academy's Virtual Learning Environment, FROG.
However, teachers continue to be anxious to get all students back into full-time classroom learning, where staff can support and encourage them more effectively. The measures put in place for Year 10 are definitely a step in the right direction. Caroline Yates, Principal of Tollbar Academy, said teachers were consulted and trained before children returned to the classroom, to ensure the safety of both staff and students.
"The children's response to this crisis has been phenomenal," said Mrs Yates. "They have completed huge amounts of work set for them on our online FROG platform, which has been marked by teachers who have given them supportive feedback throughout. Our pastoral care is also linked up to students online so that they can access pastoral and mental well-being support at any time.
"Our Sixth Form students have their own learning platform and have been completing their work through direct emails and daily support. But none of this can replace classroom learning where students have a rapport with their teachers and interaction with fellow students. We know from talking to those students who are now back in Years 10 and 12 how much they have missed this.
"Some children have been anxious about their education and also their safety while in lockdown, but seeing them face to face we have been able tor reassure them about both, and you can see the weight lift from their shoulders."
Year 10 student Grace Kimber said: "The school is very strict on the two-metre and one-way system rules and everything is very organised. It is very friendly and nice to have some normality."
Faith Ridley, also Year 10, said: "It is good being in school again. The teachers make sure we are comfortable and feel safe."
Lucas Meredith (Year 10) said: "It's not as bad as I thought it would be, as I was worried about social distancing, but I have been made to feel safe all day, and actually I think this is probably the safest place I could be."
After the first week back at school, Teacher Miss Holden said: " I found that all of the students worked really hard and were very sensible with sanitising and keeping their distance as best as possible. I was proud of them."
David Hampson, Chief Executive of Tollbar Multi Academy Trust, is delighted that all children may be back in the classrooms by September for the start of the new academic year.
"The safety of our staff and students remains paramount of course, but getting them all back into school is vital for the future of their education," he said.
Tollbar Academy students sanitise as they follow the one-way system around the Academy.
The one-way system promotes safety.
Notices remind students to stay safe while using the toilets.
Outdoor sanitising before lunch.
All students are taught in clusters (bubbles) to promote safety.
Teaching at a safe distance.