Since the beginning of January, parents, pupils and teachers have been juggling and navigating their way through online learning. But on Monday, many children who have been doing remote lessons for eight weeks returned to school as part of the roadmap out of lockdown.
And the relief has been felt across the board.
Headteacher of Whaley Bridge Primary School Seren Hathway said: “As I stood on the playground seeing all those smiling faces walk down to school knowing we would have full classrooms again I was quite emotional and I felt proud of everything we have gone through together.
"I only took this position in November and it has been a baptism of fire with such a difficult year but we have had great engagement with our pupils and great feedback from the parents who I know have found it difficult juggling everything but everyone has done a great job.”
This week students will be having an art and wellbeing week as Seren says its important for the children to reconnect with their friends and their teachers once again and have some fun together after weeks of being apart.
The news that all schools were to close did come as a shock to our teachers in the High Peak and Simon Grieves, headteacher at Chapel High School said: “I am delighted to be welcoming all of our students back to school this week. We had a very normal autumn term here, with very little disruption caused by the pandemic, so it was a shock in January to learn that schools were closing to most students.
“Our students bounced back quickly after the first set of school closures last year and we’re expecting the same to happen this time. Young people are resilient and we are confident by the end of the week they’ll be back learning and enjoying being in school. We’ve always believed that school is about much more than just working for exams and we are aiming to get as much of that extra stuff as we can up and running quickly. For example, we’ve got a big programme of after school sport starting next week, getting students outside, with other young people doing things they enjoy.”
During the lockdown schools have continued to provide online and in school learning for vulnerable students, those with special educational needs and children of critical workers.
As part of schools reopening for face to face teaching, students and staff will have to take regular covid-19 tests, bringing another challenge for many in terms of logistics.
Simon said: “This week we are offering rapid COVID-19 tests to all students before they return to school and two more tests over their first fortnight in school. This has meant converting the school’s sports hall to a test centre staffed by volunteer members of school staff. It’s a big logistical exercise with about 1,300 tests to be completed this week alone, but it is going really well. Parents have been great, being very supportive of the testing, and the students have risen to the challenge doing the tests sensibly and quickly.”
The Government’s decision to close schools to the majority of pupils, which was announced on January 4 at the end of the school Christmas holidays, also left teachers facing a last minute battle to adapt their planning and curriculum as many moved to online teaching.
James Handley, headteacher at Taddington and Priestcliffe school, said it was a demanding time for his staff.
“No one signs up to be a teacher to be stuck at a computer all day,” he said. “These changes which we had no time to prepare for have taken its toll on the teachers’ mental health as they had to come up with ways to engage not just the children in the classroom but the children at home and they have all worked so well.
"It was so great to welcome the students back and see the playground and classrooms full of friends and laughter.”
Over at St Thomas More School headteacher David Redfern, said he was delighted to see students return. “There has been a real buzz about school this week and it’s been great to hear the noise and see all the children catching up with each other. It’s been amazing to see how they’ve all grown!
“There will be opportunities to revisit learning but at the moment we are focusing on re-establishing routines and making sure that everyone is safe, well and happy.”
Headteacher at Buxton Community School, Craig Yates, said: “Each of our students and families have had their own experience of what education has been like through this most recent lockdown. We are very grateful to all of them for engaging with remote learning and trying their best to work with us to continue their child’s education.
"The support from the community for the work we have been doing has been phenomenal and very much appreciated. As a consequence, we know each of our students will be returning to school in a slightly different place.
"It has been lovely to start welcoming more students back in to the building and by Thursday March, 11 we will be back to full time face to face education for everyone. A significant number of students have been with us throughout lockdown as part of our mini school but it will be fantastic to have everyone back.
“We know most students can’t wait to get back but for some there will be worries and concerns not least, our Y13 and Y11 students who will be awarded their exam grades through a completely new system this year. "
He added: “Our job is to support each student and we will do our utmost to make sure that every child receives the grades they fully deserve in summer 2021.”