Schools have welcomed students back into the classroom after more than two months of remote learning for most pupils.
Yesterday marked the first step of the roadmap out of lockdown as primary schools opened their doors to all pupils and secondary schools began the phased return of students.
Secondary schools are now running regular Covid testing, with pupils taking three tests in school before switching to being tested twice a week at home. Students must also wear face coverings while at school.
Atlantic Academy on Portland, which teaches both primary and secondary pupils, carried out 1,000 tests last week – all with negative results – as each secondary school student was tested twice. All third and final tests will be carried out this week.
Lesley Bishop, principal of the secondary school, told the Dorset Echo: ”It has all gone brilliantly. We started testing students last week to make sure all our students have had two tests with a minimum three day gap before starting yesterday.”
Mrs Bishop added: ”All Year 9s, 10s and 11s had their third test yesterday and then Year 7s and 8s will be today. It’s business as usual. The students have been fantastic and have been resilient and adaptable.
”We have face masks in lessons as another layer of protection and the students have not minded and they have just got on with their lessons because they understand how important it is.
”We are incredibly proud of how well all of our students conducted themselves last week during the testing days.”
Melissa Heppell, principal of Atlantic Academy primary school, spent time on Sunday with four members of staff blowing up balloons to create an arch over the entrance to bring smiles to the faces of children as they returned to school.
David Herbert, Principal at Budmouth Academy in Weymouth said: ”All our students were tested once last week and the second tests start this week. The testing procedure is going really well and I would like to thank all the staff involved for their help in ensuring it has been a smooth process.
“The kids are being very mature and responsible and they are really pleased to be back at school. We expect that by the end of next week all students will have had their third tests.
”Staff and students are delighted to be back and able to see each other face-to-face – it’s that interaction that’s been missed the most and we could not be more delighted.”
Andrew Johnson has been the headteacher at Conifers Primary School in Weymouth for nearly five years and he is thrilled to welcome back his students after an ‘unprecedented’ 12 months.
He said: “It is wonderful to have them all back in after this unprecedented year. The students make the school what is is with their vibrancy, enthusiasm, laughter and energy.
“A few of the pupils were feeling a little bit anxious when they first arrived but that was quickly overcome by seeing their friends and getting to share the experiences and challenges they faced in lockdown and hearing that other people felt those things too.
“Parents were practically skipping out of the school gate when they dropped their kids off. I think they are looking forward to a bit of a break.”
He added: “The disruption to education is a concern as students have lost a large amount of learning, however, it has been provided online and it is now our job to make sure we find out where the gaps are and plug them as quickly as we can without overwhelming them.”
Councillor Andrew Parry, Dorset Council portfolio holder for children, education and early help, said: “Our schools and colleges are delighted to have begun welcoming all students back. It is wonderful for children and young people to be back in their classrooms enjoying their education together again.
“I would like to reassure students, parents and carers that our schools and colleges are following Dorset Council, public health and government guidance to make sure everyone returns to school and college in a safe a way as possible.
“It is very important that we all continue to follow the rules, please follow the testing arrangements you receive from your school or college. This will help keep your school, college and our wider community safe. I’d like to thank young people, children and families for their magnificent efforts during this very difficult time.
“I know our schools and colleges are thrilled to welcome all children back. I’d like to thank them for their vigilance, care and service during the pandemic, for remaining open throughout for key workers and vulnerable children as well as providing home learning.”
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