For many pupils, school was closed from March 2020 until the end of the summer term because of the global Coronavirus pandemic. This meant there were no lessons in school for around five months – something that didn’t happen even during World War 2. During that period of national crisis, children from large cities were evacuated to safer places in the countryside, but even then, when the children were taken in by families in rural communities, they were assimilated into local schools and their formal education continued throughout the duration of their evacuation.
So, for the current cohort of school children from Year R to Year 7, the past year has seen the longest period of absence from formal schooling since the introduction of compulsory school attendance in 1880.
Our school remained open to the children of key workers and vulnerable children throughout the “lockdown” period and our teachers embarked on a mixture of working from home and working on site in order to provide meaningful learning opportunities and activities for children at home. It was gratifying to see the contributions many parents made to our Facebook support group as they shared photos and videos of their children engaging in these home learning activities. In June we were able to welcome back our Year 6 pupils, followed a couple of weeks later by pupils from Year 1. We were pleased that the proportion of pupils whose parents chose to send them back to school was significantly higher than the Luton average.
Our school re-opened fully at the beginning of September when the normal summer break ended. For most weeks, our attendance figures closely matched the corresponding figures for the same period twelve months earlier.
The previous months had been an incredibly unsettling period for many of our pupils. They had missed their friends and teachers, some children struggled to engage in home learning activities, and the TV, radio and print media was constantly full of the growing numbers of people throughout the country affected by the Coronavirus. Indeed, some of our families experienced these effects first-hand and, sadly, we know of some who lost family members from the virus.
Prior to the start of the new school year in September 2020, we knew that the return to school would have to be planned carefully, to avoid unsettling our children further. Although classes moved year groups to a different teacher, we kept all classes the same for the first time since the school opened as a primary school so that pupils returned and re-connected with their classmates from earlier in the school year.
We also did not want to just start each year group with the normal national curriculum topics that would normally fill the timetable from the start of the year. We needed to quickly identify the gaps that children had in their learning and to begin to plug those gaps in a creative and stimulating way.
We created a whole school recovery topic called WISHES AND WONDERS. Each year group put together a recovery curriculum within this topic that enabled children to (a) reflect sensitively on the events of the previous six months, (b) share their hopes and dreams for their immediate and longer term futures, and (c) reclaim the enjoyment of learning within the primary curriculum that we as a school all believe in so strongly.
Our Wishes And Wonders topic covered all areas of the national curriculum with activities drawing on the skills and knowledge in subjects such as English, mathematics, science, history, geography, art, music and technology. You can see photos of some of our displays at the bottom of this page.
One of those activities involved the children decorating a pebble with a theme that meant something to them. When all the classes had completed their stones, were were able create a commemorative Wishes And Wonders garden. As we are still unable to invite parents and visitors into school to see our special garden for themselves, we hope that the photos below will give readers a flavour of what we have created.
Captions copied from Ofsted’s Covid monitoring inspection, carried out remotely during the January – March 2021 lockdown period.