Pupils stride back to school hoping for normality after 18 months of disruption

“Today has so many mixed emotions because of Covid, but I’m just so happy to see my child back at school.”

Landywood Primary School headteacher Andrew Clewer welcomes Martin and Amy Hawthorne and five-year-old Oliver
Landywood Primary School headteacher Andrew Clewer welcomes Martin and Amy Hawthorne and five-year-old Oliver

The first day of school is traditionally a day which carries high emotion for parents as they see their children go back to school after a long summer holiday, with some making the move to the next level.

This year, the first day back has been tinged with a feeling of caution and worry due to the ongoing presence of Covid-19, with fears of a surge in cases due to schools going back. For parents taking their children to Landywood Primary School in Great Wyrley and pupils returning to the Royal School in Wolverhampton yesterday, the new school year was an exciting, emotional and nervous time.

At Landywood Primary School, pupils aged between three and 11 were making their way into school after a long summer and were being welcomed by their headteacher Andrew Clewer and the teachers.

The atmosphere around the school was positive and friendly as parents chatted with each other and made sure their children were ready for the day and knew where to go. Amy Hawthorne was saying goodbye to her five-year-old son Oliver as he began year one, with the 37-year-old admitting she was apprehensive, but also excited for Oliver’s big day.

She said: “I’ve been a bit nervous, but I know how excited he is and how much he’s been looking forward to coming back to school as he’s missed the interaction with his friends.

“The school has done a lot to make sure they are safe and I think with good hygiene and remembering hands, face, space, they’ll be fine as the school’s are going to manage it well.”

Will pupils face less disruption this term?

Naomi Holmes was also excited for her eight-year-old son Charlie starting year four, with the 30-year-old saying it was nice to have some normalcy. She said: “I feel it’s good for Charlie to be back at school with his friends and socialise with them as they couldn’t do that for a long time.”

Lisa Walker said her eight-year-old son Thomas was ready to come back to school, with the 45-year-old saying the risks were worth it for the children to get their education.

She said: “The children could catch the virus anyway, but I think with all the measures put in place, the school has done everything it can to ensure the children are safe.”

Nicki Hamilton said her six-year-old son Daniel Maullin was excited about starting year two and while she was a little apprehensive, the 47-year-old said it was the right time to bring the children back.

She said: “I think, more than ever, it’s the right time to bring children back to school as learning is so important and the contact with the teachers is the bit that makes learning inspirational and engaging for them.” Pete Steel had dropped off his children, seven-year-old Poppy and five-year-old George, and the 39-year-old said he was relieved to be able to bring his children back to school.

He said: “It’s good to get them back after so long and I’m very proud of them for how they’ve been coming back here, as they’re both excited to see their friends and get back to normal.”

It's not just parents looking forward to school restarting; Mr Clewer has been getting Landywood Primary School ready for the return of pupils after two years of disruption, and said it was a good time to get started.

Arriving for the first day of term

He said: "It was a really nice time this morning to see all the children back and everyone has had a break and is recharged and coming back here with a buzz.

"I hope we're getting back to a sense of normality and I know the school has done everything we can to get ready and ensure all the preventative measures are in place. It's not just about that, of course, as it's also about the mental health of the children and the staff and we have to try and get that sense of normality back for them."

Mr Clewer also spoke about what he thought would constitute a good year for the school.

He said: "I think a good year would be that, hopefully, bubbles do not return and while we understand we are going to get the odd positive case, we won't all need to isolate.

"If we can keep the classes in school and try to get the breadth of opportunity back for our pupils, as well as follow our curriculum as much as possible, I think that will be a successful year."

At the Royal School, the pupils of years six, seven and twelve were beginning their school year at the Free School as part of a structured reopening of the school to all years.

Leading the way were head boy Dafe Akpoguma, deputy head boy Zibusiso Phakathi, head girl Sophie Whitehouse and deputy head girl, Nina Mesic, with all four beginning year 12 and happy to be back.

Starting back for a new term at The Royal School, Wolverhampton, are Harry Ryan, 10, and Gabrielle Ellis, 10, Zibusiso Phakathi, 17, Sophie Whitehouse, 17, Nina Mesic, 18, and Dafe Akpoguma, 17

17-year-old Dafe said: “It feels good to be back after such a long break because of Covid, and I hope we can have a full year without any disruption due to lockdowns," while Zibusiso, also 17, hopes everyone can "get on without restrictions.”

"I feel the school has done everything it can to help make me feel safe," he added.

Head girl Sophie, 17, said: “I’m really glad to be back and while we are maintaining some of the things we did before, such as masks and bubbles, we are heading back towards a sense of normalcy.”

18-year-old Nina, who is a boarder from Croatia, said she was looking forward to finally be able to "experience a proper school year here”.

The year six and year seven pupils were also excited to be back, with 10-year-old Anna Dvorjannikova saying she had missed the learnin and 11-year-old Aneniishe Garacho declaring it was a great time to be back, join new clubs and have more variety in her school life.

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