Students and staff at The Ladies’ College, Elizabeth College and Blanchelande College were said to be relieved to be able to get back into their classrooms and see each other, regardless of the ‘new normal’ of Public Health measures, such as social distancing, remaining in place.
At The Ladies’ College, about 98% of the students were in attendance.
‘We’re all so happy to be back,’ said college principal Ashley Clancy. ‘The majority of our staff and students are back and those that haven’t are classed as high risk.
‘We’ve put in place lots of new practices, such as a one-way walking system round the school, repositioned desks accordingly and are advising of good respiratory hygiene through posters and by talking to the girls, and lunches have also been shortened resulting in an earlier finishing time.
‘We’re really pleased to see each other despite having to learn to adapt.’
Blanchelande principal Robert O’Brien was also delighted to see nearly everybody and fewer than 10 students out of 385 were missing after a long hiatus.
‘Pupils and staff have been incredibly adaptable over the last two months of remote teaching and learning, but we’re all relieved to be back together,’ he said.
‘We did a survey of students prior to returning and the vast majority of pupils said they were excited to be returning – that was evident in the very happy expressions arriving this morning.
‘We feel incredibly fortunate to be able to reopen and pupils and staff have been delighted to see each other.
‘Staff have been keeping a very close eye on the children to ensure that everyone is settling into a familiar, but slightly different routine.’
He added pupils had been commenting on how much better it is to be able to be taught in a classroom.
‘Although they’ve appreciated having live lessons during lockdown, all those students I have spoken to have said they much prefer the structure of the school day and being able to see their teachers and ask for help there and then,’ he said.
‘Other students have said how great it is to be back in school because they’ve missed the wonderful environment we have and the school’s atmosphere.’
Measures were similar to The Ladies’ College - essentially following their normal timetables but moving around a lot less than they would normally in line with Public Health guidance, while also using their classroom as a base. However, the playing fields at Blanchelande are also split into zones, where the students stay with their year group ‘bubble’.
At Elizabeth College, principal Jenny Palmer said it had been a busy but good first day.
‘Even though it’s only day one, everyone’s very positive,’ she said.
‘We got the opportunity this morning to talk to all the students and ask them all about lockdown and how they got through it – what was good, what was bad and whether they liked it or not.
‘It’s a big change to come back after so long and wellbeing is really big part of the school’s ethos so to hear what it’s been like for them is important.’
She said 99.2% of students had returned with the vast majority glad to be back and see friends.
‘There’s obviously some changes with regards to tutor group bubbles and one-way systems and staggered breaks and lunches with packed lunch only at this stage, but we’re hoping to keep monitoring the situation and continue adapting as time moves forward,’ she added.
‘It’s great to be able to welcome everyone back and get used to all this together.’