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Headteachers hail amazing pupil numbers in the first week back at school

PUBLISHED: 07:28 12 September 2020 | UPDATED: 07:28 12 September 2020

Matthew Try, headteacher of Hillcrest Primary School. Picture: Ian Burt

Matthew Try, headteacher of Hillcrest Primary School. Picture: Ian Burt

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Headteachers have said high numbers of children returning to classrooms across the county this week was a vote of confidence in the work done to make schools safe.

Mel Fearns, headteacher at St George's Primary School in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Victoria PertusaMel Fearns, headteacher at St George's Primary School in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

This month marked a new school year like no other, and at the end of week one, heads were generally positive – despite it being “one of the hardest in their career”.

Melodie Fearns, headteacher at St George’s Primary School in Great Yarmouth, said: “From the children’s perspective it’s been very smooth, calm and welcoming and they have all got smiles on their faces. But from a staff point of view it’s been very stressful and from a headship point of view it’s personally probably been one of the worst working weeks of my life.”

Mrs Fearns said the school had introduced staggered start times and lunches and had to implement social bubbles for pupils, all of which had “taken months to put together”.

She said pupils had been happy to be back in the classroom and the response from parents had been overwhelmingly positive.

St Williams Primary, Norwich Children return to school after lockdown. Head Teacher Miss Sarah Shirras Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANSt Williams Primary, Norwich Children return to school after lockdown. Head Teacher Miss Sarah Shirras Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

“Lots of parents have rung me up to thank me for the calm start to the year and for the stuff we have in place because they felt very safe.

“It’s not often that teachers and headteachers get thanked...it’s a tremendous compliment,” she said.

In Norwich Tom Pinnington, head of Notre Dame High School, said the first week had been fantastic: “It’s been quite emotional at points seeing [pupils] walking through the gates with smiles and you could see they were chuffed to be back and so were staff.

“Inevitably there was some nervousness in students and staff but that’s mixed with excitement to be back doing the job they love.”

St Williams Primary, Norwich Children return to school after lockdown Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANSt Williams Primary, Norwich Children return to school after lockdown Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Mr Pinnington said the first week back had also seen an element of everyone getting used to new routines and the systems in place to make sure everyone was safe.

He said Notre Dame had not had any incidents of staff falling ill and hoped that if it came to it staff would be able to get tested quickly.

Mr Pinnington said: “It’s a little bit too early to say how good that testing regime is for schools, I hope schools, teachers and staff have priority because they’re absolutely fundamental for us to be able to stay open.”

Matthew Try, headteacher at Hillcrest Primary School in Downham Market, said attendance at the school had not dropped below 95pc all week, which he hailed as “an incredible show of support” for the school from the community.

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He said: “All of the staff are finding the changes to the normal school day and the increased hygiene measures a challenge to adapt to and there will undoubtedly be an impact on the amount of learning that can take place each day as a result.

“However, the staff have equally done a fantastic job of making the children feel settled and safe and there is a genuinely warm feeling amongst the 500 pupils who are excited to be back.”

Sarah Shirras, headteacher of St William’s Primary School in Thorpe St Andrew, also said children had returned to school in high numbers: “There’s a real positivity that education and school is back and people have missed it.”

She said staff had put in lots of new systems to help keep people safe and to help children adjust to being back in the classroom.

In Sheringham Dr Andrew Richardson, headteacher at Sheringham High School, said the school had seen a phased return, and pupil attendance had been as good, if not better, than in previous first weeks of September.

He said: “Our mantra is that we’re not allowing mention of catch-up, we’re starting afresh from now on and moving 
forward.

“Our attendance has been fantastic. We have 750 students at Sheringham and I don’t think we’ve had more than half a dozen off across the whole school which is as good, if not better than any first week back in September.”

View from the parents

Beth Dimon from Attleborough, said her son Thomas who is in year two, was having a great time seeing his friends, and didn’t seem bothered “at all about the teachers wearing masks”. She said her son said his first day back was “the best day ever!”

Ms Dimon who also has a daughter starting secondary school said: “It’s hard enough transitioning from Year 6 to Year 7 when there isn’t a global pandemic, so I really feel for all of the children moving up into high school. It does seem, however, that they are all taking it in their stride.”

Penny Travers from Watton, said she had been very impressed with the Northgate High School, where her daughter had just started in Year 7.

She said:: “The school are doing great things to help keep the students stay safe with one-way systems and different areas for different years so that there is no mixing during school hours, with staggered drop off there is as little year mixing as possible.”


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