Primary schools across Unity Schools Partnership have been reflecting on the first days of the national phased reopening for nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 children.
Fifteen of the trust’s primary schools opened their doors for the priority year groups this week as well as keyworker and vulnerable children, alongside continuing the home schooling.
While some primary schools were not yet able to accommodate all three year groups, more than 800 children attended the first day on Monday.
Vicky Doherty, headteacher at Kedington Primary Academy, described the feeling as similar to the beginning of the school year.
She said: “Parents reported that children were really excited and had kept asking how many more days before they could come back.
“We focused on making sure children felt really welcome and had a positive start. We established new procedures and routines in a fun way, some usual learning activities and also activities to support their wellbeing and to manage their anxiety.”
Asked about the work of staff in preparation for this week, Mrs Doherty added: “It has been a massive piece of work to get everything ready in the building, supporting the children to be prepared to come back, planning teaching and learning within the restrictions and making sure everyone knows how everything will work and how to be safe.
“But staff have been absolutely amazing and really gone over and above, including doing lots of work during their half term break. Their determination to do what they can to make sure the children have a positive start and feel relaxed has been incredible.”
Fiona-Catherine Thompson, deputy headteacher at Westfield Primary Academy in Haverhill, said: “We had a great day and it was lovely to see the children’s smiles as they arrived.
“Our headteacher Toni Kittle led our first Zoom assembly across the school about kindness and the children will spend this week learning our ‘new normal’ routines around handwashing and social distancing.
“We are also planning transitioning activities for our Year 6 pupils as they prepare for secondary school.
“We continued to support our Year 2 to Year 5 children through our comprehensive remote learning offer. We are immensely proud of the support and care our team has offered throughout and continue to do.”
Ben Jeffery, headteacher at Glemsford Primary Academy, said: “The first day went brilliant. Everyone was feeling nervous but thanks to all the hard work and preparation things went really smoothly.
“Parents were very understanding and several sent lovely supportive messages saying how staff really put their minds at ease.
“A particular highlight was seeing the smiles on children`s faces at the end of the day when they told their parents what a great day they had.
“Staff have been amazing. They have worked tirelessly and have always been positive and looked for solutions. They have gone above and beyond over the past three months and I am incredibly proud of them.”
At Laureate Primary Academy in Newmarket, headteacher David Perkins said he felt all the hard work and preparation had paid off.
Mr Perkins said: “Parents have been incredibly supportive throughout the whole closure period and reported that the children really enjoyed their first day back at school.
“Our focus was on giving the children time to get used to the new arrangements, re-establishing friendships and then gradually introducing routines and structure to make things feel as normal as possible.
“The school felt really calm throughout and hearing the children walking out with their grown-ups, telling them about their day, was lovely.”