While primary schools are currently required to reopen for Year R, 1 and 6, headteacher, Paul Marshallsay, has welcomed back over 90 per cent of pupils with only those children who are shielding or who have clinically vulnerable relatives remaining at home.
Mr Marshallsay said: ‘The major reason I decided to reopen was I was becoming increasingly concerned about both staff and children’s mental health. Having spent so long at home and without social contact, people were really starting to struggle.
‘One of the best things for me has been getting that noise back - that sound of what a school should be.’
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It’s a sentiment shared by new head girl, Arabella West, 10, who missed interacting with her friends and teachers.
Arabella said: ‘Lockdown has been hard and I was really happy to get back to school and to see all my friends and teachers again. It was quite strange at first as I’d not been into school for so long.’
Former head girl, India Shivjee, 10, added: ‘It felt amazing. While home learning was good, technology can sometimes go wrong and school is a much better learning environment where you can interact with your teachers more.
‘I’m really proud we are the first school in Portsmouth to fully return.’
To enable all children to return, the school has created bubble groups of a maximum of 15 children as well as social distance markers, staggered start and finish times and hand sanitization points. The school has even installed outdoor sinks outside every classroom as part of a meticulous hand washing regime.
With the government pledging all children will return in September, Mr Marshallsay feels one of the biggest challenges facing schools is restoring public confidence.
‘I feel we already have parent’s confidence but we did produce a video which shows all the measures we’ve put in place to help reassure them. By September many children won’t have been in school for six months and it will be emotionally quite difficult for them,’ he said.