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What your children will see when they return to school

There’s never been a new school year quite like it.

For many children, the autumn term is about to begin after months of disruption and time at home. They will return to classrooms rather different to the ones they left.

As well as planning trigonometry and photosynthesis lessons, schools now have to think about bubbles, how to allow social distancing, and which pupils can use which toilets.

Schools have drawn up their own plans. But here’s a look at what a day in school could now look like.

Getting ready

The government wants all pupils, in all year groups, to return to school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term and schools across the UK have been planning for the new term for months. At Alderwoods School, in Aldershot, Hampshire, the distance between tables in a classroom has been measured.

Social distancing measures have also been prioritised, meaning the school’s corridors have been made one-way – with signs showing which direction pupils should walk in.

Cleanliness has been made a priority. At Queen’s Hill Primary School, in Costessey, near Norwich, the school’s site manager fills bottles of sanitiser to help keep surfaces clean.

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Heading to school

The issue of face masks in secondary schools differs from nation to nation. Secondary school pupils in local lockdown areas in England will have to wear them in school corridors.

While in Scotland, they already have to wear them in corridors and communal areas. Northern Ireland recommends wearing them in corridors, and in Wales the decision is being left to head teachers.

At St John the Baptist Primary School in West Belfast, principal Chris Donnelly – wearing a face shield – reminded pupils to use hand sanitiser as they entered the building.

And pupils on their first day back to school at Charles Dickens Primary School, in London, queued outside school with their parents at drop-off time.

In the classroom

Many year groups will be in bubbles, and some years will be spending more time in a single classroom, with teachers moving around for lessons. At Westlands Primary School, pupils are given their own work and stationery sets.

Pupils are all supposed to face forwards to help stop the spread of infection. Pupils on their first day back to school at Charles Dickens Primary School sat on desks spaced out in the classroom.

Drama teacher Geoff Nolan gave a socially-distanced class to pupils at Holyrood Secondary School in Glasgow – being careful not to step over floor markings.

At Manor High School in Oadby, Leicestershire, a voluntary policy is in place when it comes to students wearing face coverings. The area came out of a local lockdown last month.

A traffic light system was put in place for hand-washing at Kempsey Primary School in Worcester, with green for go, amber meaning it’s nearly your turn, and red for stop. (This picture was taken in May, when the school was open for the children of key workers.)

Lunch break

Breaks and lunch times will mostly be staggered so that class bubbles don’t overlap.

At the Charles Dickens Primary School, separate areas have been sectioned off for different classes, so the groups don’t mix.

In Kempsey Primary School, pupils have been sitting apart at lunch, with places carefully marked out so no-one sits directly next to or opposite each other.

And at St John the Baptist Primary School, in west Belfast, dinner staff wore personal protective equipment to dispense hot lunches to pupils.

Home time

School times have been staggered in many places, to allow children to leave at different times. And the playground has been segregated for dropping off and pick-up times so parents don’t congregate together.

Some schools are changing their entrances and exits, with one way in, and another way out, to keep people apart.

At Llanishen Fach Primary School, in Cardiff, children dance on a measured and painted socially distanced circle in the playground as they wait to be picked up by their parents.

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  • Coronavirus lockdown measures
  • Schools
  • Coronavirus pandemic

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