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It’s the start of a new term and it’s time for children across the country to get back to school, nursery and college.
Many parents, pupils and teachers are excited to get back into the routine and although it’s understandable to have a few worries the benefits of going back into education are clear.
Not only will pupils be learning again, but they’ll benefit from the sense of routine, the chance to see their friends and a boost to their wellbeing.
With new safety measures in place things will look a bit different, but pupils will be guaranteed plenty of support from their teachers.
Dr Paul Phillips CBE, 62, the Principal and Chief Executive of the Weston College Group in Somerset is one of many leaders who’s worked hard to make the learning environment safe and welcoming for returning students.
He said: “If you came into my campuses you’d see the one-way system, you’d see all the sanitisers, you’d see the counselling service, you’d see the ability for us to check temperatures, but behind that are the individual learning plans for each student. That’s where the crucial planning really takes place.
“We’ve increased the number of mental health advisors and support workers who are here, we’ve put a massive investment into all levels of additional learning support at tutorial level, mentoring and one-to-one teaching.
“I’ve doubled the amount of cleaners in the college – I just need to be assured that everything we do is protecting everyone.”
Home schooling hasn’t been easy and many parents are worried that their children have fallen behind, but parenting expert and author Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari believes they’ll catch up quickly and that getting back into the classroom will boost their mental health.
“I’m not worried about the academic gap, because I think kids will pick up very quickly. But it’s starting to affect their mental health more and more, so it’s good that they will be back in school from September,” says Dr Ben-Ari.
“Children are not designed to sit down all day. They need to be out in the fresh air and moving their bodies. It’s so important for children of all ages to interact with their friends face to face for communication, and non-verbal communication.
“Kids at home have spent a long time on screens while parents are working and they don’t have the resources to entertain and teach their children at home.
Spending more time on screens will have affected their mental health: it increases anxiety, especially with children who are a little bit more vulnerable to it.”
For Chloe Williams, a beauty therapy student at Weston College, the return can’t come soon enough.
“I feel ready to go for a long-awaited 2020 and seeing the new socially distanced facilities has been great,” she says.
“My tutors are very approachable if I have any worries and we are all helping each other.”
The PHE’s Chief Nurse, Viv Bennett, says: “Parents can be reassured that to maximise safety in schools, an extremely stringent system of controls has been advised by PHE and is published in DfE guidance.
“Evidence so far indicates that schools do not appear to be a primary driver of coronavirus infections in the community.
“Globally, children and young people have been found to experience coronavirus asymptomatically or as a minor illness.”
The Government’s new Wellbeing for Education Return package has training and resources for teachers and young people to protect their wellbeing and mental health.
Now the NHS Test and Trace system is up and running and there’s more understanding about what needs to be done to stay safer. Children should stay at home if they have any symptoms such as a fever, continuous cough or loss of taste and smell. If there is an outbreak at a school or college, local health protection teams will work with staff to agree what action is needed. Schools shouldn’t need to close fully, but if they do there’ll be a contingency plan in place to make sure children’s education continues.
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