Facing the front and paying attention! Pupils go back to sitting in rows and ...

Millions of children returned to school today and the classrooms of old - as new coronavirus safety rules mean they have to now sit in rows again and face their teacher. 

Part of the covid-secure measures mean modern arrangements, which used to see pupils opposite each other around desks, have been axed to prevent any risk of infection.

Instead they are now required to sit in rows facing their teacher in a move expected to have the welcome side-effect of greater learning.

It was confirmed by Outwood Academy Portland in Worksop, Notts, and follows Education Secretary Gavin Williamson suggestion in July it should happen to help classes

Outwood Principal Godsway Dzoboku said: 'When you get into the room there’s a hand sanitizer, there’s an alcoholic wipe, there is a Dettol spray and there’s just normal tissue

'The tables are all facing the front now, they didn’t used to be like that before

'These are seats in rows, before students used to sit in fours facing each other,

'Now they have to be in rows facing the front and where they are sat down they have all got their own personalised packs,

'In those packs they have got a mini white board, board pen, a pencil, a ruler provided by the school so they are not having to share anything.'

It came as teaching union chiefs today admitted schools were as 'safe as possible' as millions more children returned to classes in England and Wales after six months at home during the coronavirus lockdown.

The National Education Union said schools were seeing a 'very calm, managed and positive' return to the classroom as families largely appeared to defy virus fears, with many schools reporting high attendance rates.

However in Scotland more than 100,000 pupils are absent from school, with 117 testing positive for Covid-19 and the attendance rate in the country's schools – which went back on August 11 – at just 84.5 per cent. 

It comes as: 

An educational psychologist warned pupils are likely to be 'drained' by the sudden 'overload' of being back; One academy chain revealed its attendance was 94.3 per cent across its six primary schools yesterday; Schools are staggering the return of year groups to ensure social distancing measures are not overwhelmed; A YouGov poll suggested 17 per cent of parents were 'seriously considering' keeping children out of school.

Charles Dickens Primary School in London had the children all facing the teacher in a line after the new measures

Charles Dickens Primary School in London had the children all facing the teacher in a line after the new measures

Pupils in a classroom on the first day back to school at Outwood Academy Adwick in Doncaster sat in rows at their desks

Pupils in a classroom on the first day back to school at Outwood Academy Adwick in Doncaster sat in rows at their desks

Barnton Community Primary school required the youngsters in sit in rows on the floor facing teacher for the start of the day

Barnton Community Primary school required the youngsters in sit in rows on the floor facing teacher for the start of the day

Teacher Joanne Conlon with some of her pupils on their first day at St John the Baptist Primary School in Belfast yesterday

Teacher Joanne Conlon with some of her pupils on their first day at St John the Baptist Primary School in Belfast yesterday

Mary Bousted, joint general-secretary of the London-based NEU, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning: 'Yesterday for those pupils who returned and today when more will return, it's a really important day.

'There'll be lots of nervous children and young people this morning, and I'm sure when they get into school they'll very quickly be reassured by the routines and be really glad to be back with their teachers and their friends.' 

She added: 'I think that leaders, teachers and support staff have worked really hard to put protocols in place to ensure that it's a safe as possible return to school. They have worked really, really hard.

'So we hope that everything will go well, and the signs are at the moment that it's a very calm, managed and positive return to school – and that's good.'

Shielding mother 'has no choice' but to send her daughter back to school

A woman who has been shielding with an immune system disorder says she feels she has 'no choice' but to send her daughter back to school despite fears she will bring coronavirus home.

Jennifer East, from Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, has common variable immunodeficiency, which leaves her vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19.

She feels it is 'really not safe' for her 11-year-old Tayla to 'open the bubble' when she starts secondary school on Friday. 'I feel like I have no choice. Like the Government are saying I have to do it or get fined,' Ms East said.

Jennifer East with her daughter Tayla and husband Scott

Jennifer East with her daughter Tayla and husband Scott

The Government has faced calls to scrap fines for parents who do not send their children back due to fears over the virus. The Department for Education insisted it was safe for children to return and said fines would only be used as a 'last resort'.

However, Ms East said: 'It's really not safe, I personally feel, at the moment. I have common variable immunodeficiency so we at home have been in our own bubble for six months. Now we have to open the bubble to a load of schoolchildren too.'

Her daughter will be wearing a mask in classes and private transport arrangements have been made by her school. 

Ms East added: 'They are doing this because of my condition. They will try and help me as much as possible, but I have said that if I feel it's not working, or think the risk is too high, I will be taking her out of school again. I will just have to face the consequences if that happens.'

Advertisement

However, she added that schools were struggling with the extra costs of cleaning, putting Perspex screens up, and rearranging the school – amid the 'huge distraction which was the A-level and GCSE fiasco in secondary schools'.

Ms Bousted continued: 'So one of the real concerns is that this is costing quite a lot, and schools do not have that money in their budget, and that's a worry – and that will be a continuing worry.'

It follows teaching unions being accused in June by MP Jonathan Gullis, himself a former teacher, of mounting a 'campaign of fear' by urging parents not to send children back to 'death trap' schools. 

Meanwhile educational psychologist Daniel O'Hare warned pupils are likely to be 'drained' by the sudden 'overload' of being at school after so long at home

Dr O'Hare, from the British Psychological Society, told BBC News: 'I think there's a real need to recognise the physical, mental and emotional impact of going back. It will be very new to go back into that full-on setting with 30 children in a class.'

Yesterday there were beaming smiles at school gates across the country as thousands of pupils were reunited with friends for the first time in half a year.

Parents spoke of their delight that their children's education would no longer suffer and they would be freed up to make more trips into work.

Many schools reported low rates of pupil absence, with one academy chain said attendance was 94.3 per cent across its six primary schools and that the absent pupils did not stay away due to Covid-19 concerns.

Meanwhile schools in Leicester, which were among the first in the country to open last week, said attendance was above 90 per cent. Other schools said they felt the vast majority of pupils had returned.

It is too early to tell how successful the Government's drive to get children back into classrooms has been, with millions more pupils not due to return until later this week or next.

And many of those which opened yesterday are staggering the return of individual year groups to ensure social distancing measures are not overwhelmed early on. But school leaders signalled there were encouraging early signs.

Among those defying their fears at school gates yesterday was mother-of-two Kayleigh Leather, 35. She dropped off her sons Harrison, nine, and Lewis, six, at Leamington Community Primary School in Liverpool.

She said: 'I was doing cartwheels. I was so ecstatic for the children because they have missed out so much on their education. I find it ridiculous that pubs were able to open before schools.'

Emma Timson, 36, was waiting outside Orchard Mead Academy in Leicester for her son Lewis, 11, at the end of the day. She said: 'I was quite nervous this morning, because we've been shielding for the past few months as I'm pregnant.

'So I've been thinking about him all day. But the school had planned well, with the staggered starts and other measures like half year group bubbles, and kept parents informed, and it sounds like it has gone well.'

The positive return came after a YouGov poll suggested 17 per cent of parents in England and Wales were 'seriously considering' keeping their children out of school over lingering virus fears.

Dinner staff wear face shields as they give out lunch to pupils at St John the Baptist Primary School in Belfast yesterday

Dinner staff wear face shields as they give out lunch to pupils at St John the Baptist Primary School in Belfast yesterday

Pupils wash their hands as they arrive on the first day back to school at Charles Dickens Primary School in London yesterday

Pupils wash their hands as they arrive on the first day back to school at Charles Dickens Primary School in London yesterday

A separate poll by Mumsnet found 46 per cent of parents were 'anxious' about sending their children back to school, while 52 per cent were 'relaxed'. 

Next year's exams could be delayed so pupils can make up for lost learning

Next year's exams are likely to be delayed to allow to pupils to make up for months of lost learning, the Government admitted yesterday.

Despite concerns over the potential knock-on effects on college and university admissions, GCSEs and A-levels are set to be pushed back into the summer. Schools minister Nick Gibb said it was an option 'we are looking at and have been looking at for several weeks'.

The Government has been facing mounting pressure to allow a short delay, with the Labour Party and teaching unions calling for the normal start date of May to be delayed until June or July. 

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson also suggested that schools could be asked to undertake 'benchmarking' – or rapid assessment by teachers – to check how far students had fallen behind.

Advertisement

A third said they may pull their children out of school if infections rise.

In a blow for Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, the poll also found 58 per cent did not feel the Department for Education has done enough to reassure families it is safe to send children back.

Over the coming weeks ministers will be keen to avoid the drop in attendance seen in Scottish schools, where more than 100,000 pupils are absent.

Data collected from local authorities there yesterday revealed attendance is now 84.5 per cent, down from 95.8 per cent a few weeks earlier. 

However, only about a fifth of the absences were recorded as 'Covid-19 related'.

Mr Williamson yesterday said he was 'confident' that preparations put in place would allow a 'successful return' for all pupils in England, adding that welcoming children back was a 'massive milestone'.

In Scotland, more than 100,000 pupils are currently absent from school, with 117 children testing positive for coronavirus. 

Scottish Government figures show the attendance rate in schools fell to 84.5 per cent last Friday.

sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more

The absence rate directly attributed to Covid-19 was 3.2 per cent, which amounts to 22,821 pupils. The Scottish Government said it was

read more from dailymail.....

PREV Day two of Britain's back to work drive and roads and trains into London look ...
NEXT Four Navy aircrew parachute to safety moments before E-2C Hawkeye plane crashes ...