Schools find different ways to say goodbye - and prepare for a ‘new adventure’ in September

July 23 2020
Schools find different ways to say goodbye - and prepare for a ‘new adventure’ in September

SCHOOLS have had to find new ways to say goodbye to leavers – and their next challenge is how to welcome all pupils back in September.

Traditional end-of-year events, from leavers' proms and discos to residential camps, had to be cancelled, with video messages and socially-distanced events taking their place for many of the Year 2, Year 6, Year 11 and Year 13 pupils completing their journeys through the Thornbury area's schools.

Having first opened only for keyworker and vulnerable children, then limited year groups, staff have put hours of work into preparing for a "new adventure" in September when all children will be welcomed back to their classrooms – but separated into 'bubbles' by class or year group to try and minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus.

Gillingstool Primary School head teacher Caroline Carter said: “We are all organised and ready to go.

"Children will be working in class bubbles, each with its own dedicated play area and equipment. The biggest changes will be that we will hold assembly and story time online, and dinners will be eaten in classrooms.

"However, it will be a new adventure and we are really pleased that our school community will be back together in the autumn.”

Castle School head teacher Joe Docherty told parents in the school's end of term newsletter that they will be using bubbles for year groups and pupils will access a full range of subjects, keeping things ‘very close’ to how they were pre-lockdown.

Changes to the schedule of the school day will minimise contact between each bubble, with staggered break times, arrival and leaving times, and separate entrances for different year groups arriving at the same time.

Mr Docherty told parents: “Each year group will be allocated a zone within which to take their break and they will be strongly encouraged to be outside.

Staggering the breaks will ensure the bubbles can remain separate in different areas of the school, ease pressure on the canteen and toilet areas and allow cleaning to take place.”

Journeys to school will also be different, with pupils being advised to avoid public transport and, if this is not possible, use a South Gloucestershire school bus rather than a scheduled public service.

At primary schools, where the usual transition days to secondary schools were postponed and the traditional end of Year 6 celebrations had to be scrapped, staff worked extremely hard to send their leavers off in style.

Christ the King Catholic Primary School held a fun day. While staying in their separate teaching bubbles, the pupils had the chance to step into real bubbles as they played zorb football on the field (main picture), along with tag archery, dodgeball and team games.

Hollie-Jane Lewis, aged 11, said: "On the magnificent Fun Day, the zorb balls were my absolute favourite because we kept falling over, so we were all in hysterics and it was a great way to say goodbye!"

James Cullyer, 10, said: "The Year 6 Fun Day was awesome! It was the best thing a teacher could have planned for us at this time!"

Christ the King primary Year 6 leavers

Year 6 teacher Hannah Whitfield also let her class take ownership of their last few weeks to mark the end of an era.

She said: “They chose most of the activities that we have undertaken. Memorable highlights include a talent show, making and exploding papier mache volcanoes, painting, junk modelling, a pyjama and film day, clay modelling, a Sports Day and even performing a TikTok dance which the whole Year 6 team participated in, staff included!”

She added that the “phenomenal resilience” shown by her pupils throughout lockdown, would “stand them in excellent stead” for their transition to secondary school.

At Gillingstool, a socially-distanced “fond farewell” for Year 6 pupils was held on the field (below).

Mrs Carter said: “They were presented with an achievement certificate, a memories movie and a Gillingstool pencil and pen set. We finished off the afternoon with a visit from the local ice-cream van and a celebratory 99, with ice cream for every child.”

At the Sheiling School, which had to close temporarily in May when two members of staff tested positive for COVID-19, administrator Laura Jane-Mann put together a yearbook despite the lockdown.

Head teacher Dean Frances-Hawksley said: "It's been one of the most challenging years I can remember for Sheiling School. The build-up to Ofsted was incredibly intense, and then literally two days after the inspection the Covid crisis hit.

"But for all that staff have had to really dig deep to get through this year, it's important to reflect on the success of the Ofsted inspection, and the further success of managing to keep the school open and functioning for a large percentage of pupils almost throughout this last four months.

"And that we've still managed to get so much done in terms of supporting pupils at school as well as those who stayed at home, is quite amazing.”

Sheiling School leavers