BACK TO SCHOOL – What to expect?

Autumn Term 2021

As students and teachers return to school following the Summer holidays, we find ourselves preparing for a new academic year.

However, this year feels especially significant.

As the World continues to recover around us, a new academic year offers the prospects of a fresh start.

For students, the transition into a new school year presents exciting new opportunities, but also demands an adaptation to change. Since the pandemic we have all had to adapt to constant adjustments in our social, professional and daily lifestyles. For students starting the next school chapter, and those returning to join their classmates, updated COVID guidelines raise questions like..

What to expect in the learning environment?

Primary / Secondary Education

‘Pupils in the UK have missed about a third of their learning time during the pandemic’ – BBC News.

Concerns regarding how pupils will catch up on lost school time encouraged some institutions to provide Summer classes to Primary students. Action was taken in preparation for year 6 pupils making the transition into Secondary school.

During the holidays approximately half a million students have attended Summer school. The classes focused on mental health and well being as well as learning and an increase in fitness levels.

For new year 7s, the transitional leap into Secondary school presents shifts in lesson formats, an introduction to exam practice and new social opportunities. Studying in multiple classrooms with specialist subject teachers, in comparison to the intimate environment of a singular Primary school classroom, means an expansion in social interactions.

The social development of young people has been hugely impacted by the restrictions of the pandemic. School offers an environment for vital social interaction.

We hope all students are excited to either start or return to school and be reunited with their friends.

New COVID19 Guidelines

Facial coverings are no longer advised for staff or pupils in school, although they’re still recommended in crowded spaces such as on school buses,‘ reports BBC news. The system of “bubbles” – where children only mix within a fixed year or class group – has ended, as has the need to stagger start and finish-times, or avoid mixing at lunch or in the playground’. – BBC News

It sounds as though the canteens and recreational spaces will be busier during breaktimes!

However, despite the increased freedom entering the new school year, guidelines still apply. Students are encouraged to social distance when possible whilst maintaining vigilant levels of hygiene. Plans are being made on how to better manage indoor ventilation.

Further BBC reports on guidelines state, ‘Any pupil under 18 who tests positive for COVID will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to isolate. The child – or their parents – will be asked to provide information about close contacts at school and elsewhere, and their contact details, if known. Under-18s who are named as close contacts will be asked to take a PCR test. However, they will not have to self-isolate unless they themselves test positive. Secondary school pupils and staff are being asked to continue self-testing twice a week. This advice will be reviewed at the end of September.’

Grades / Exams

For Secondary school students, celebrations have ensued, following an impressive year of grades and successful school-leavers. This year, the grading system relied heavily on teacher assessment. The standard exam practice was reviewed following the impact of restrictions on education, during the Pandemic. The Guardian reports, ‘ This year exams in England were scrapped in January by the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, who chose to have teachers award grades by assessment, overseen by examination boards. Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said this year’s GCSE grades were…

A fair and accurate reflection” of the ability of pupils receiving them, despite the controversy over grade inflation. These pupils deserve huge credit for having weathered the storm of the past 18 months,” Barton said. “The question of next year’s grades is only one part of the wider issue of how to support pupils in the wake of the pandemic. This must also involve an education recovery plan from the government that is far more ambitious and better funded than ministers have managed so far.”

The Guardian, THursday 12th August 2021

The concern for Secondary students returning to school, is how the grading structure will be reviewed. As well as, when the inevitable return of exams will be…

Exams are expected to return in 2022 for GCSEs, A-levels and vocational qualifications in England. But, unlike in the past, pupils are likely to be told which topics will come up. This will be to ensure no one is disadvantaged by COVID disruption. Detailed plans won’t be confirmed until later this year. – BBC News.

For now, focus remains on welcoming new and returning students back into the school setting. Whilst, ensuring the environment is as safe as possible under the new guidelines.

Ventilation for a Safer Learning Environment

For most schools concerns of health and safety during the pandemic have included the issue of ventilation throughout classrooms. Although regulations regarding face coverings have weakened, the attention on proper ventilation remains strong. As we approach Autumn & Winter, permanently opened windows will not be conducive to a productive working environment. This causes demand for focus on better ventilation management during the colder months.

BBC news reports, ‘Six education unions are calling for extra money to improve ventilation in schools in England, arguing that better airflow measures would help limit disruption and sickness.’ The concerns for better ventilation in schools has sparked a discussion as to whether the use of CO2 monitors could better analyse the spaces in need of more ventilation. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “By keeping up simple measures such as ventilation and testing, young people can now enjoy more freedom at school and college.

BBC News – Saturday 21st August 2021

Prioritising Vulnerable Students

The CO2 monitors will first be given to Special Education schools, due to the higher percentage of vulnerable students. However, the BBC reports, ‘All schools and colleges are expected to receive at least partial allocations during the Autumn term, enabling all settings to monitor areas where they believe airflow may be weakest.’ The use of CO2 monitors offers a possible long term solution to school ventilation if the areas requiring improvement are recognised. The DfE reported on their ventilation plans.

“Keeping windows fixed open would be challenging in the depths of a British winter and does not make for an environment which is conducive to learning. Our understanding is that carbon dioxide monitors will indicate when spaces need ventilating thereby reducing the need to keep windows open all the time.” – DfE

Welcome Back

Everyone here at Link Education, wishes a warm welcome back to all of our returning teachers and education staff. We also welcome new members of staff that have enrolled with us during the Summer holidays.

And of course, we welcome anyone currently looking to work in education, that would be interested in joining us!

We hope you have all enjoyed a restful Summer and look forward to working with you through this new academic year.