‘We've missed them, the building is so quiet’: Sheffield school becomes Covid-safe in preparation for returning students

A secondary school in North Sheffield has been working hard behind the scenes to ensure safety measures are in place ahead of pupils and staff returning this week.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 9:15 am

From March 8, pupils across the country will return to schools in a massive step for educational facilities.

Secondary schools are allowed to stagger the return over a week to enable Covid testing to be carried out - students will be tested three times in the first two weeks and then given two lateral flow tests to use each week at home.

All primary and secondary school staff are also being offered twice-weekly rapid tests. People in the household, childcare bubble or support bubble of staff or pupils can also get a twice-weekly test.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A tour around Yewlands Academy with Bob Johnson and Abtisam Mohamed from Sheffield City Council ahead of the school opening to pupils next week. The sports hall which has been turned into a covid testing area. Picture: Chris Etchells

Yewlands Academy in Grenoside, Sheffield has been busy preparing Covid-19 safe measures with everyone’s safety in mind.

Speaking about the school returning, Yewlands Academy head, Andy Kelly, said: “I’m delighted, I’m really proud of the determination and the resilience that the young people have shown in this kind of latest national lockdown because actually, they’ve been incredible, and they’ve really shown some quality work.

“We want our children back as soon as possible. We’ve missed them; the building is so quiet.

“You come into this job because you love working with young people, and my staff love working with young people, but it’s just not the same speaking to them through a computer screen.”

A tour around Yewlands Academy with Bob Johnson and Abtisam Mohamed from Sheffield City Council ahead of the school opening to pupils next week. They are pictured with Head Teacher Andy Kelly in the sports hall which has been turned into a covid testing area. Picture: Chris Etchells

Safety measures at the school include hand sanitizing stations, markings in the hallways, cleaning stations in classrooms, regular cleaning of the building by staff and mask-wearing by all students and staff apart from those exempt.

Pupils who have been attending the school throughout lockdown have seen it split into sections, with each year group having their own part of the building to learn - this makes it easier for people to distance themselves and keeps larger groups from mixing.

In classrooms, teachers are directed to stand in marked out boxes on the floor throughout the lessons to keep them at a safe distance.

Plans at the school have seen the sports hall converted into a Covid-19 testing facility, enabling students to get tested before returning.

Mr Kelly said: “Logistically, it was challenging, but regards to the kids returning to us on Monday, we have all the system set up, so it’s fine.

“We’re really excited about returning and just desperate to get back, to be honest.

The only difference is the lateral flow test, and then the face mask-wearing in classrooms; beyond that, we’re a covid safe school.”

During the lockdown, teaching was diverted online, with remote learning become the new norm, but students at Yewlands also had ‘no screen days’, giving them a chance to rest their eyes and relieve stress built up during the pandemic.

Some pupils at the Academy were also given laptops and other equipment that was needed for their studies.

Speaking about how the school has coped with remote learning Mr Kelly said: “It’s been an incredibly difficult time for everybody within education, certainly trying to ensure that children have that remote learning offer that is of good enough quality.

“We’ve made sure that it has not disadvantaged any of our young people, we’ve made sure that it has tied in with our normal curriculum delivery, and they have had the best opportunities possible.”