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Lockdown school: 'No large crowd at the gates... the children eat lunch at their desks... conversation focuses on the friends they miss... mask-wearing parents socially distanced along the path smile with their eyes as they collect their children'




As all children were welcomed back to school on Monday (March 8), Emily Ford, a teacher at Thorn Grove Primary School in Bishop's Stortford, reflected on working in lockdown...

With all children returning to classrooms, lockdown school has come to an end. As one of the few remaining teachers in school during this time, it has been a surreal experience and one I will not forget.

The difference is stark from the beginning of the school day. There is no large crowd at the gates, only a small number of children trickle in.

The gates of Thorn Grove Primary School reopened to all pupils on Monday (March 8)
The gates of Thorn Grove Primary School reopened to all pupils on Monday (March 8)

On my last day before half-term, just 35 children attended – normally there would be 197. Most are children of key workers, but many are vulnerable or have additional needs.

In my classroom, or ‘bubble’, only around a third of the seats are taken. Although this sounds much easier, the ages and abilities of these children vary greatly. The pupils are a mix from two classes, so different lessons run simultaneously. The children concentrate well, even when half the group are taking part in a virtual PE lesson.

Protective measures are always evident. Open windows and doors allow fresh air to ventilate the room and the children wash their hands regularly. Staff wear masks and often face shields too. Sometimes the face shields steam up and the children struggle to make eye contact with the adults.

Thorn Grove Primary School teachers Kathleen Canavan, left, and Emily Ford. Picture: Vikki Lince (44779195)
Thorn Grove Primary School teachers Kathleen Canavan, left, and Emily Ford. Picture: Vikki Lince (44779195)

When lunchtime arrives, there is no noisy queue by the school kitchen. Instead, meals are brought to the classroom and the children eat at their desks. They then go out to play with the other children in their bubble.

On my way to an empty staffroom, I greet the cook – she looks quite alone without her colleagues.

Afternoon lessons are more relaxed and informal. There is more time to get to know the children. When we talk about the virus, the conversation always focuses on the friends that they miss. Other staff tell me that when they hold a ‘live lesson’ over Zoom, all the children are very keen to join and talk to their classmates.

As I take the children to the gates at the end of the day, I overhear novel conversations. One boy asks his friend if he’ll be coming in tomorrow. His friend replies: “No, I don’t come in on Fridays.” Many children attend on a part-time basis to suit the needs of their key worker parents.

Thorn Grove Primary School in Bishop's Stortford
Thorn Grove Primary School in Bishop's Stortford

Mask-wearing parents wait patiently outside, socially distanced along the path. They smile with their eyes as they collect their children. Another day of lockdown school is over.

I feel lucky to have stayed in school with the children this term. Most of my colleagues have taught remotely and have missed the face-to-face interaction with their pupils.

The staff, as well as the parents and pupils, have had to adapt in different ways. By working hard together, we have overcome many new challenges and the children continue to learn and grow.



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