Family & Education

'Positive and calm': how one school coped with pupils' return

Sacks Morasha headteacher Hayley Gross says 'hours and hours' of preparation enabled it to welcome back children last week


The government inflicted yet another change on schools last week, abandoning plans for all primary age groups to return before the end of the summer term.

For some, that will come as blessed relief as they wondered how they would be able to manage social distancing on site with a potentially full house.

But Sacks Morasha was one school that had a plan ready.

Last week the North Finchley school welcomed back years one, six and reception and while some schools have staggered the return of year groups, Sacks Morasha started them together with 93 per cent of eligible children back in class.

That high response was the result of “hours and hours” of detailed planning and a “massive team effort” from staff, said headteacher Hayley Gross, as well as keeping parents abreast of arrangements. “They trusted us, they have come on the journey with us.”

It recently held virtual parent meeting for every year group to ensure that families knew what was going on.

The one-form entry school occupies a pretty compact site so working out how to implement the necessary health and safety measures has required a good deal of thought, not least because of constantly changing government guidelines.

“We’ve got a parent who’s a doctor who talked us through all our worries and concerns,” Mrs Gross said.

Classes have been split into bubbles with a maximum of 15 children and two staff per bubble. Break and lunchtimes are staggered, a “click and collect” system has been introduced at the end of the day to deliver each child to the waiting parent outside.

Planning has taken account of small things that can help, “like keeping doors open to reduce touching”.

The school has also had to accommodate the return of a large number of children of key workers, who in previous weeks would have gone to Wolfson Hillel in Southgate as part of provisions made by the Jewish Community Academy Trust, to which both schools belong.

At the same time, home-learning children still have to be catered for. “We don’t want them to feel left out. That’s the real challenge, making sure now we are back in school, the home-school learning children are part of the school. That’s the next thing we have go to turn our attention to- that we are still seen as one school,” she said.

For those back in class, the school day is a little shorter and they have yet to go back to a full curriculum. “You can’t run before you walk,” Mrs Gross. “The children haven’t been used to sitting down and working at a desk. We’ve got to get them used to be back at school.”

A Joe Wicks-led PE session helps them to limber each day, while as part of the wellbeing programme, “we’ve done a lot of discussion on what has happened and what they are looking forward to”.

But she feels the preparations have paid off. The atmosphere is “very positive and calm”.

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