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‘It’s a bit quiet and eerie’: The first day of very different school lessons

PUBLISHED: 16:53 23 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:53 23 March 2020

Emily, 9, sits at her desk at home on the first day of home schooling due to the coronavirus pandemic. PA Photo. Picture: Giles Anderson/PA Wire

Emily, 9, sits at her desk at home on the first day of home schooling due to the coronavirus pandemic. PA Photo. Picture: Giles Anderson/PA Wire

Teachers, parents and children have been faced with a very different start to the school week as coronavirus measures came into force.

Schools have closed to reduce the spread of coronavirus - and are only open to look after the children of “key workers” and vulnerable children.

For youngsters starting their week at home, schools have been putting lessons and coursework online so that pupils can keep up with their studies.

Norfolk County Council is advising parents to help their children create their own learning timetable to avoid the enforced absence from school becoming a holiday.

Stuart Allen, headteacher of Mile Cross Primary Academy in Norwich. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodStuart Allen, headteacher of Mile Cross Primary Academy in Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Children who were able to continue to attend school found few of their friends.

MORE: Pupil numbers ‘manageable’ but 56 schools remained closed or partially closed

At Mile Cross Primary School just a fraction of the normal number of children were in its classrooms.

Headteacher Stuart Allen said: “We have 34 children in school today whereas we normally have 465. It’s a little eerie with it being so quiet and voices echoing around the walls when it would normally be noisy and busy.

Schools have been open for vulnerable children and those whose parents are 'key workers' amid the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: GettySchools have been open for vulnerable children and those whose parents are 'key workers' amid the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Getty

“The children have been sitting in the dining room four metres apart.

“We had potentially up to 90 children who could have attended if we went down the key worker scheme and vulnerable children.

“However many of those parents saw me in the playground on Friday and said we are going to keep them at home. They are following the advice and self-isolating and keeping them at home.”

Parents had been warned they could be in for “difficult conversations” if they take their children to school when they have an alternative means of ensuring they are looked after.

The Department for Education said that, if required, schools can ask for “evidence that the parent in question is a critical worker, such as their work ID badge or pay slip”.

MORE: Parents praise fitness guru Joe Wicks’s online PE lessons

Mr Allen said: “It has actually gone very smoothly. We identified all the key workers by sending out a survey and we know all our parents very well so throughout last week I sent out three letters.

Mile Cross Primary School normally has 465 pupils but had just 34 on the first day of the coronavirus closure. Picture: MCPSMile Cross Primary School normally has 465 pupils but had just 34 on the first day of the coronavirus closure. Picture: MCPS

“Each morning we are doing the register and then making sure we have provision for those key workers.”

Former Suffolk headteacher Geoff Barton, now general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said pupil numbers at most schools had been “manageable”.

“Schools have calmly gone about the business of identifying children who need places, arranging staffing cover, and providing learning resources for children who are at home,” he said. “It has been an exemplary exercise in superb leadership.”

Dozens of Norfolk schools remained closed or partially closed despite efforts to open for vulnerable children and those whose parents are 'key workers' amid the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: GettyDozens of Norfolk schools remained closed or partially closed despite efforts to open for vulnerable children and those whose parents are 'key workers' amid the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Getty

- The full list of schools closed or particularly affected is at the Norfolk County Council site; while there is also a list of educational resources for learning at home.

- For updates on how coronavirus is affecting Norfolk, please visit our Facebook page here

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