Nearly half a year after our schools closed I doubt there has ever been a day when so many pupils have been so eager to return after the summer holidays.
Within that time there have been four main periods:
The chaotic keyworker period in April, when school was not a school. My daughter went in dressed in fancy dress on one occasion. One boy brought his Nintendo in. The school did extremely well in looking after a handful of youngsters of all ages while we all tried to make sense of what the hell was going on.
The partial return: In June, when a few children returned to their classes in their bubbles, queued with social distancing, and each sat several feet apart. I guess when you’re five it doesn’t matter too much because you haven’t lived long enough to know what normal – or maybe abnormal – really is.
The summer holiday: When we went our separate ways and took gambles on visiting quarantining countries, or finding alternatives to travel full stop. My daughter, for information, has not actually stopped going to school or her childminders all the way through this era other than a brief break, but instead of the Olympics – which we’d saved up for for 18 months – it was Oxfordshire. It was nice, it was sunny, and it was good. It was not Toyko.
The now. Things are not quite back to normal but it’s on the horizon. There were no bags or books allowed into school today.
We were slightly early and waited to one side of the Year Ones, while a queue of other Year Twos slowly arrived at the entrance, meaning that we could look back and see smiling little familiar faces from March. And that includes parents as well.
The children then lined up in their respective classes, giggling and chatting. Apparently only four children were not present today, from a class of nearly 30.
There will be teething problems in Peterborough schools, but these will be solved. When I spoke to Nene Park Academy principal Robin Grover last week he said that some of the measures that had been put in place beforehand were relaxed on the first morning, such was the smoothness of the return.
And relaxed has to be the right word. If we’re to get through this a calm, considered way of proceeding is what is needed in the near future. If children (and staff) care infected people will understandably be concerned, but the evidence is that children are more likely to contract Covid-19 at home.
For an example of how to do it right, look at the letter that Ken Stimpson Community School sent out to parents after a confirmed case – the school will remain open and they have advised parents to continue sending their children if they are well.
There will be more cases and today ‘dozens’ of schools have reported outbreaks, across the country and no doubt the world. Some children will not return yet for health reasons – both their health and others’.
It’s futile to say don’t worry. There’s probably not a person on the planet who hasn’t worried in the past six months.
But from a parent who has seen his little one pass through it all I am more confident that we are all heading in the right direction.
We might not think these are the best days of their lives at this point, but their glowing expressions this morning when they saw their chums for the first time in nearly six months told a different story.