VIDEO: Jubilant parents welcome schools reopening in Blackpool after tough lockdown
Millions of children across the country laced up their sensible shoes and made their way back to school with text books in hand today, and pupils on the Fylde coast were no exception.
The reopening of schools marks the official beginning of the Government’s plans to slowly bring Britain out of lockdown - it is hoped - once and for all.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the changes will bring ‘joy and relief’ to families after months of tough restrictions.
But one scientist advising the Government said it is ‘inevitable’ there will be an increase in the numbers of Covid-19 cases as schools go back.
The risk, professor Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said, was down to the inevitable increased contact among adults.
“The main driver is not the pupil-teacher relationship,” he said.
“When we talk about schools, it is the fact that the school brings adults together, whether that’s teaching staff, the domestic staff, the catering staff, and it’s an opportunity for mixing.
“Their colleagues are more of a risk to them than the children.”
Despite these risks, many local parents welcomed the reopening of schools following months of online learning at home.
Parents, grandparents and great-grandparents from South Shore dropped their children off at Roseacre Primary Academy on Stonyhill Avenue, and were greeted with rainbow-coloured welcome signs created by pupils who attended the school during lockdown.
Dad of two Stewart Haslam, whose nine-year-old daughter attends Roseacre, said: “Whether it’s a good idea it remains to be seen, but the kids do need some kind of stability back in their lives. Getting them back in friendly surroundings with their friends and teachers they trust is the best thing.
“The problem with learning at home is that it can be distracting because it’s such a comfortable environment.”
Jackie Hammond, 66, who has a 10-year-old granddaughter at the school, said: “I think they should come back to school. (My granddaughter) is mixing with her friends. She needs interaction with her teachers to learn better. Zoom is OK, but it doesn’t replace real social interaction.
“Her mum and dad have been doing home schooling, but it’s tough because you can’t beat a school experience.
“I feel a lot more at ease because of the vaccine.”
Another parent, Nicky Shaw, 41, said: “I think it’s good for the children to interact with each other again because at home they become introverted. They go into themselves.
“It hasn’t been easy in lockdown because we are parents, not teachers. We don’t have the training a teacher has.
He added: “I think this school is really good and I feel confident that they have got safety measures in place.”
Nicci Briacell, 43,who has a nine-year-old daughter at the school, agreed.
She said: “I think it’s great. They need to return. My child was nervous at first but she went in fine, which was helped by having the teachers outside welcoming everyone in.
“I don’t think lockdown has been good for their mental health, and not having that interaction with other children. Coming to school is for learning, but it’s also got building social skills to help them later in life.
“I think all the kids are a bit excited because they haven’t been here in two and a half months.”
The move was also welcomed by the school’s staff.
Head teacher Sean Hickey said: “I’m very excited. We have been looking ward to welcoming all the children back, though we have had, on most days, about 200 children in school, so we have been very busy throughout the past 12 months.
“The teachers are really enthusiastic and they have been wanting the children to come back for months now We’re confident the school is a safe environment and we have rules in place to make sure students and staff are as safe as then can possibly be.”
He added: “The main difference we are going to see is that the classes are going to be in bubbles of no more than 30, apart from reception and year one.
“There’ll be regular hand sanitising and separate play times which will be staggered. Ventilation in classrooms, doors open.
“They will notice some differences and the staff will be wearing masks in communal areas but not in classrooms.
“If things go to schedule then we’re looking to increase the size of our bubbles after the Easter period.”
Seeing in the pupils yesterday morning, he said: “Most of the children have come running into school and I think the biggest smiles on people’s faces have been the smiles on the parents, who I think are particularly relieved to see the children back in school.”
Deputy head Julie Logan said: “We have seen a very positive feeling here today.
“Our teachers have done a sterling job adapting to working from home, the children have been fantastic all the way through, and our parents have been very supportive.
“I’m glad we are now seeing things back to as normal as they can possibly be.”
Rachel Jones’ four-year-old son, who is a reception pupil, was among the few children who were allowed to continue to attend school during lockdown. She said: “I think he’s very excited. He loves school and he’s doing brilliantly, so I would rather him be at school than at home.
“(During lockdown) he had to go into a different class with different children, but now he’s looking forward to seeing all his friends again, especially those he hasn’t been able to see.”