‘Spirits all-round have been lifted’, says head on schools reopening

Burgess Hill Girls head Liz Laybourn said the return to school feels like “extended family” coming home

Independent school heads have been sharing their thoughts on the reopening of schools after two months of remote learning during England’s third Covid-19 lockdown.

Schools re-opened to all pupils on 8 March, marking the first stage of the government’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown.

Burgess Hill Girls head Liz Laybourn said: “It is quite simple – the return to school for me feels just like the extended family have returned home. 

“The clear levels of optimism and appreciation amongst the staff of what coming to work truly means to them alongside the sheer excitement displayed by the pupils at being able to learn face to face and attend co-curricular clubs has been incredible. 

“Spirits all-round have been lifted and so has the noise level. We love it! As a teacher it has been great to have the face-to-face interactions and remind myself of why I love doing what I do.”

As a teacher it has been great to have the face-to-face interactions and remind myself of why I love doing what I do – Liz Laybourn, Burgess Hill Girls

Prep school teacher Alice Morgan said it was “glorious” to see pupils’ hands go up when she asked a question to her class on the first day back. “Hearing and seeing the girls’ enthusiasm and eagerness to contribute to the lesson is very special. It is such an exhilarating experience, one that I had deeply missed during remote learning,” said Morgan.

Martin Hall, head of school at ACS Hillingdon, said the best part about the return to school was seeing children “active and energetic”, rather than “cooped up in their houses”. 

He also commented on taking the pressure off parents: “[The best part is] hearing children’s voices in the corridors and the joyful expression on parents’ faces as they deliver their children in the morning and realise they are someone else’s responsibility for the day!

Shaun Fenton, head of Reigate Grammar School, said he was “overjoyed” to have pupils back, but highlighted how the last year has taken “a huge toll on everyone in education” and “there is much to do”.

The BBC has reported that attendance figures since pupils returned showed high levels of pupils back in the classroom, with 95% of pupils in primary schools back and 89% of secondary school pupils back – as the return in secondaries has been staggered to allow for Covid-19 testing.

“While there is a great deal of excitement about children returning, there is understandable anxiety too. It is therefore essential that the government monitors the early data following the wider reopening very closely and acts accordingly,” said Paul Whiteman, general secretary at the National Association of Head Teachers.

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