‘We have kept everything as normal as possible’

Conifers School headmistress Emma Smyth discusses how the school is helping its pre-prep and prep school pupils readjust to full-time, face-to-face education

Over the last year pupils across the country have had to endure vast changes to their usual schooling. Now, with the restrictions around Covid-19 slowly lifting, we’re helping pupils readjust to full-time face-to-face education.

The children were all excited to be back in school and we made sure there was a lot of pastoral support, should they be anxious. Form tutors ran additional PSHE sessions on their return and have kept in close contact with parents to make sure the children are supported.

Our special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) has had 1:1 sessions with any children that have felt anxious about coming back to school and a continuing dialogue between parents and school has ensured that all children are catered for.

We have kept everything as normal as possible; the children are in bubbles, but we have arranged the timetable in such a way that the children don’t notice that they are using different areas of the school, such as the art room, on different days.

The teachers have been disinfecting touch points twice daily, but again without the children being aware, so that everything feels as normal and stable as possible at school.

Although we are keeping everything as normal as possible, we are also being fully aware and sensitive to children being more tired than they would normally be

Teachers are Covid testing at home twice weekly – being a primary age prep school, there is no Covid testing of the pupils yet.

Although we are keeping everything as normal as possible, we are also being fully aware and sensitive to children being more tired than they would normally be. Coming back to a routine has been very reassuring for children and parents, but they were very tired at the end of term.

We celebrated good work, birthdays and stars of the week in our newsletter, but didn’t have full school assemblies. Other events, such as the Easter egg hunt went on as normal – it was important not to let things slip off our calendar.

We are trying to keep all our annual events going where possible but in a Covid-safe way. Our sports became in-house challenges, for example, the Strava Challenge and the weekly Willett Workout.

Moving forward

This term our match fixtures started again and we have changed our residential dates to after 21 June, so they can still go ahead but with, hopefully, less restrictions.

For our summer festival we are planning a family-focused event on the field, with all children performing in small groups, as productions were cancelled over the past year, and a senior drama production. It is important that the events of this year aren’t missed.

The combination of the additional support, alongside being sensitive to the change of physically coming back into school, is having a really positive impact on the children. 

They are responding well, they are happy to be back in a more normal routine and to be able to see their friends again, but with additional safety nets available should they need the extra support.

We believe that consciously trying to emulate a sense of the norm is the best way for the children to adapt back into full-time, face-to-face education.

In addition to the work we have done with the children since they have been back, we also took the opportunity to make some school improvements whilst everyone was home learning. 

We have refurbished the art and DT facilities, implemented new reading corners in the pre-prep, and refurbished the early years playground and track area, pupil toilets and various classrooms.

We also created outdoor learning areas such as a new bird hide and allotments. As we move forward we aim to encourage children to spend more time outside and become even more involved in extra-curricular learning

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