Focus on face-to-face teaching when schools return

This story was published 2 September 2021

Many covid-related restrictions affecting the classroom will be lifted when children return to school next week, but schools in North Yorkshire will still have strong measures in place to keep everyone safe in school.

School books and students

As the vast majority of pupils return to school in North Yorkshire on Tuesday, September 7, they will find many of their school’s familiar routines have returned.

The need for children to be taught in bubbles, the use of face masks in school for older pupils and staggered start and finish times to the school day will no longer be required. The new term should see the opportunity for children and young people to mix with peers in different year groups at break times and school assemblies, and the chance to move around the school during the school day to make use of specialist classrooms such as laboratories or sports facilities.

Schools will continue to put proportionate measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including increased hygiene such as hand washing, robust cleaning regimes and ventilation in classrooms. COVID-19 risk assessments will also be continually reviewed and updated according to the latest guidance.

In very limited circumstances, further measures may be brought back for a temporary period if reducing mixing between groups is seen as necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Wearing a face covering is also still recommended for pupils aged 11 and over travelling on public transport, or dedicated school transport, but one will no longer have to be worn in school.

The main priority of the new Government guidelines focuses on delivering face-to-face education for pupils, limiting the disruption and use of remote learning, which many families experienced previously. Evidence shows that being out of the classroom causes harm to educational attainment, life chances and the mental and physical health of children and young people.

Anyone under the age of 18 years and 6 months will no longer be required to self-isolate if they are a close contact of someone with the virus, unless they develop symptoms or have tested positive themselves. However, all close contacts will be strongly advised to take a PCR test for COVID-19.

Pupils are also encouraged to take at least one lateral flow test before returning to school and then continue with regular lateral flow testing twice a week. School pupils aged 16 or over, who are now eligible to be vaccinated, are also encouraged to get the vaccine.

Cllr Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education and Skills, said: “I’m sure parents, pupils and staff will welcome the feeling of normality when pupils return to school next week, with the return of familiar routines and school days again. We are expecting to see much less disruption to children’s time in the classroom going forward.

“But we would also like to reassure parents and pupils that schools will still be working hard to make sure people stay safe in school.

“Schools will continue to put proportionate measures in place such as increased hygiene and cleaning in schools, ventilation in classrooms. They will also still have plans in place to manage an outbreak and will be updating COVID-19 risk assessments according to the latest information and guidance.

“We are very much looking forward to welcoming students back to the classroom and would like to thank headteachers, teachers and support staff for all their hard work so far in getting us to this point.”

Headteachers in some North Yorkshire schools said some of the adjustments made during the pandemic proved popular with pupils and helped with their learning, so they will be integrating some changes they found beneficial into every day teaching.

They include schools such as Le Cateau Primary School in Catterick Garrison, which said it found keeping teaching assistants and staff based with the same, small year groups, rather than moving them across the school site, had reduced disruption for pupils and had proved a popular way of working. Pupils in some classrooms at Colburn Community Primary School told teachers they preferred sitting with their tables facing the front of the class for learning, so the school will keep the arrangement.

The headteacher of Colburn Community Primary School in Catterick Garrison, Jane Knowlson, said: “Our staff have been amazing. All summer, they have been looking forward to the start of the year and engaging with the children again. They have also been testing for COVID-19 throughout summer to make sure they are safe to come into school.

“People are ready to come back and enjoy face-to-face teaching again.”

Ian Mottram, Headteacher of Le Cateau Primary School, in Catterick Garrison, said: “From next week we have just short of 500 children wanting to be in the building, seeing their friends and learning.

“For anyone who works in school, that’s why we’re there.”