School, but not as we know it - teachers prepare for the return of students across West Country

  • Watch Richard Payne's report

Headteachers and school staff across the region are putting final plans in place ahead of students returning to the classroom on Monday for the first time since early January. 

But it won't be school as we know it, with testing in place for secondary students and staff, and masks will be worn by many.

Thousands of students and staff will be tested three times in as many weeks at the King Alfred School in Highbridge, Somerset.

After a year's disruption to their education, a negative test result now means home learning for the students is finally at an end.

The school has more than 1,300 pupils to reintegrate into classroom life. Older years will return from Monday (8 March), with the younger ones arriving in the coming days.

Testing is encouraged but not compulsory, as is wearing masks anywhere on site.

Tests being carried out at The King Alfred School in Highbridge Credit: ITV News

Principal Nathan Jenkins hopes after so much uncertainty, Monday will mark a permanent return to face to face lessons:

"We mitigate as much as we can, we can't eradicate - as a country let alone as a school. What we'll do over the next couple of of months is track and trace more closely.

"The wearing of masks, the testing in school and we'll have less asymptotic children walking around school, so hopefully if we do have to isolate we can isolate much smaller groups."

Pawlett Primary School near Bridgwater is about to increase its pupil numbers from 15 to all of its 59 children, some of whom experienced only a few months in school before covid hit. 

The first job will be trying to assess how the children's learning has been affected.

Pawlett Primary in Bridgwater is also preparing to welcome back all of its children Credit: ITV News

"We'll pick up on any gaps." says Principal Emma Barker, "Their teachers know them incredibly well so they'll be able to plug any loopholes."

The benefits the school has discovered through online learning will remain and while tests and masks are not needed for the young children, safety is priority number one.

Lisa Dadds is the Head of Primary Education of the trust which runs the school:

"Different DfE directives have come through and I think teachers and everybody involved have adapted incredibly quickly and successfully for the benefits of children and families."

Across the region, living rooms, bedrooms and kitchen tables are returning to their original use, much to the relief of parents.

"It was a bit of a juggling act - working from home and remote learning, you know, sharing technology." says mum Abby Priestley, "It's been great to get them back to school."

At most schools, the return will be staggered over several but for perhaps for the first time ever Monday morning can't come soon enough.

Read more: