Queuing outside the school gates, one-way systems in corridors and divided playground areas: this is what the future of schooling during the coronavirus pandemic could look like.
The government has officially given the go ahead for reception, year one and year six pupils to return to school from Monday, as the five key tests required for the easing of lockdown have been met.
So schools preparing to welcome more children back have explained how they have implemented a range of measures to help keep them safe.
Hartford Manor Primary School in Cheshire says it is taking a ‘phased approach’ by reopening to 100 more pupils over successive days from June 8.
Headteacher Simon Kidwell said parents will queue at drop-off and pick-up times, classroom windows will be open to ensure good ventilation, extra cleaners have been employed and water fountains, as ‘hotspots for transmission’, have been removed.
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He said: ‘Social distancing for adults is going to be stringent, with a dropping-off system where parents will have to queue a bit like at the supermarket.
‘The children will be kept in “bubbles” of 15 to ensure social distancing between each other by using cones in the playground.
‘We have also installed 37 new hand washing stations, which are like troughs with warm water and soap for children to wash their hands before entering the building.
‘It’s important for children that class looks as normal as possible but no longer will we be able to have 400 children running around and playing together at lunch time.’
Bryony Baynes, headteacher at Kempsey Primary School in Worcester, said similar measures would be in place at her school, adding that corridors will have one-way systems and staff will be allowed to wear face masks if they want to.
‘Realistically, as I have said to parents, I can’t promise you that the little ones will be two metres apart at all times – they are four and five years old,’ she said.
‘If a child falls over, we are still going to pick them up and cuddle them.’
While the school has tried to keep things as normal as possible, the youngsters will ‘undoubtedly see some differences as they walk in the door’, she added.
‘It will initially seem very strange to them, however, children are very resilient and as long as the staff greet them with smiles and they are with some of their friends, I think they will adapt to the new normal,’ she said.
Schools, colleges and nurseries closed more than nine weeks ago due to the Covid-19 outbreak, remaining open only for vulnerable youngsters and the children of key workers.
The decision to go ahead with a phased return to school from June 1 came after education unions and council leaders urged the government to reconsider the proposals amid safety concerns.
Findings from a PA survey of local authorities show that more than a dozen councils are advising schools not to open to more pupils from Monday.
Jackie Schneider, a music teacher in Merton, south west London, said her school had taken the decision not to return until June 18 because of insufficient space for social distancing.
She said a hierarchy of musical instruments, with percussion deemed the most coronavirus-safe and wind instruments like recorders as off-limits, could be used when children do return to her classes.
Ms Schneider, who has been a teacher for 30 years, said: ‘Teachers will have to be imaginative.
‘There’s an awful lot you can teach through storytelling. We used to use stories much more and I think we will see some return to that.’
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