How these Sheffield schools are coping with the new normal amid the coronavirus pandemic

Pupils across South Yorkshire are in the midst of a new school term like no other – returning just weeks ago to classrooms changed significantly by regulations to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 12:15 pm

New rules on face coverings, social distancing, and hygiene have added extra pressure on schools and families during what is one of the busiest times in the academic year.

Andrew Truby – executive headteacher of St Thomas of Canterbury and St Wilfrid’s Primary Schools, in Sheffield, and St Joseph’s, in Dinnington – has now shared details of how his staff and pupils have been coping with the new normal.

He explained that opening the schools is logistically challenging, but said that the focus remains on “high quality teaching and learning.”

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Children back at St Thomas of Canterbury School. Pictured is a reception class with Miss White.

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“It is exhausting simply being open with all of the logistical arrangements, handwashing and bubbles so it is absolutely vital that we really focus on the quality of education that we are offering to our children,” Mr Truby said.

“The children have adapted extremely well to being back at school full time. It is almost as though they appreciate it that little bit more because they had not been in school for part of lockdown.

“Our big focus is on ensuring that all children learn to read and go on to become frequent readers who choose to read for pleasure. We have found that many children continued to make progress in early reading at home through Ruth Miskin’s YouTube lessons as part of our remote learning offer.”

Year 2 Maths with Mr Robinson at St Thomas of Canterbury where pupils are taught in 'bubbles' to minimise the potential spread of coronavirus

Classes within the schools are segregated into bubbles, although Mr Truby said there are also a handful pupils who are put into smaller groups of additional teaching.

He explained: “We made that decision because we felt that the additional risk was worth the benefit to the children. Similarly, we’ve put on our breakfast and after school club as we decided that if we were going to open fully, we’d need to do that and we know the benefits of that for many children and parents who depends on it to go to work.”

At St Joseph’s, children have settled back into the school “extremely well” and are enjoying new ‘Ark Curriclum Plus’ subjects – teaching schemes developed by the education charity Ark – including history, geography and science.

The school, currently rated special measures by Ofsted, has also completely refurbished its early years provision and now has places available for three-year-olds.

Children back at St Thomas of Canterbury School. Year 4 science class with Miss Peppall.

Year 3 teacher Charlie Shelton said: “The children have settled back into school extremely well. They have responded brilliantly to the new curriculum used across school. They are engaged in their work and you can clearly see how excited they are about our new Ark topics.

"I was pleasantly surprised to see how mature my class handled the logistic changes around school and how they didn't let this effect their school work.”

Pupils at St Thomas of Canterbury School have been described as ‘enthusiastic’ and are said to be ‘over the moon’ to be back.

Mr Truby added: "There was a lot of talk during lockdown around children’s mental health. We’ve seen that being back in school has been great – having that routine, getting back into their lessons and their learning.

Children back at St Thomas of Canterbury. Year 2 Maths with Mr Robinson.

"That interaction and colloboration with their peers is much more of a meaningful experience for them.”

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Year 3 pupils at St Thomas of Canterbury School learning Spanish with teacher Mr Walker.