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‘Safety first, then everything else follows and we can get back to our core business of teaching.’
These were the thoughts of Lochgilphead Joint Campus head teacher Ann Devine as schools settle into the new school year.
Argyll and Bute schools returned on August 11 for the first time since coronovirus measures forced their closure back in March. But things are clearly different in the post-pandemic world, with national protocols in place and continually subject to change.
Only this week the Scottish Government announced that secondary school pupils will have to wear face coverings in corridors, communal areas and school buses from Monday August 31.
But three weeks into the term, how has it been for Lochgilphead Joint Campus?
Miss Devine said: ‘To be honest, the pupils have coped really well. They came back positive and cheerful; they followed all the new guidance and protocols with no problem and are just getting on with it in the way that Lochgilphead children do.
Scottish Government guidance does not require social distancing in academic classes but Miss Devine emphasised the measures taken by the school.
‘We have stringent protocols in place for movement around the campus, using single file. We have staggered times for classes starting and finishing and are keeping pupils in their year groups outwith class, like a big social bubble.
‘We are also using outdoor spaces. The good weather has helped, and during lunchtimes for example the pupils are encouraged to go outside.
‘There’s been a lot of open windows and doors for ventilation around the school, to try to keep it as safe as possible.’
‘In many ways it simplifies some of the mechanisms around the school,’ she added, ‘and it’s actually been nice to see them outside so much socialising with each other in a calm but controlled way.’
She paid tribute to the support the school has received from the parent council and wider parent group.
‘The parent council has been magnificent, as have all the parents. They have kept in touch and supported the school throughout lockdown and over the arrangements. Obviously they are glad to see the children getting back to some sort of normality in schooling, but they have trusted us with the arrangements to safeguard the children and I feel very lucky to have that support.’
Faced with a constantly changing picture, both locally and nationally, Miss Devine commented: ‘It is challenging to respond to that and keep lines of communication open with parents. Argyll and Bute Council has been good at giving guidelines to schools and that has helped a lot.’
The council has also supplied hand sanitiser, face masks, gloves and visors and, said Miss Devine, the school is prepared to deal with anyone displaying symptoms.
‘We have thermometers in the school and we would test if we had concerns about a child becoming ill. There are straightforward guidelines that when a child displays symptoms they should be isolated and taken home immediately.’
She added: ‘As yet we haven’t haven’t had to put those measures into practice.’
In the event of a pupil being unable to attend school, Miss Devine confirmed that the online teaching platforms have been retained ‘as a safety net’.
Miss Devine concluded: ‘Everybody is having to get used to the new health and safety protocols, but thus far people feel well supported. The teachers are really glad to get back. I mean, school’s about children and we are loving having the children back.
‘All in all it’s been really positive’