‘Excited’ children learn social distancing rules as they head back to school

Children at a Hampshire infant school have learned the new rules of social distancing and “helicopter arms” as they returned to their classrooms for the first time since the Covid-19 lockdown.

Cathy Moden, headteacher of Hiltingbury Infant School in Chandler’s Ford, said that she had expected 45 of the 90 children in reception year to attend on Monday but 39 turned up.

She explained that all children from reception year were invited to attend but the school, which has a total of 270 pupils, had not yet opened up to the other two years.

She explained that the school was awaiting further guidance from the Government on social distancing and on keeping children in “bubbles” of 15 before opening up further to Year 1 and then to Year 2.

She said: “I do expect it to increase, I think some parents have made a decision on what they have heard in the media, I have heard from some parents they aren’t ready yet to send their children.”

The school also has 23 pupils from Year 1 and eight from Year 2 attending, made up of children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Ms Moden said: “We did look at Year 1 coming back as well but we couldn’t accommodate with the measures in place to ensure children’s safety and well-being but we are looking to do that when it is appropriate and when we’re sure the right conditions are in place.

“The children were quite excited, they were pleased to be back, pleased to see some of their friends, albeit with social distancing in place.

Pupils in class
Pupils in class

“There was some concern with some children. It’s new but we are very conscious here of the children’s mental health and well-being and that’s really a priority for us.

“We have put a lot in place prior to them coming back. We have done social stories, a video of what the classrooms look like and we’ve done a lot of work with parents so they can prepare their children for the differences they will encounter and the children seem very happy playing in Year R.

“The parents at the gate seemed to be pleased to be coming back.

“Social distancing is very challenging with Year R children. We have done social stories to help them understand, and talked about helicopter arms and put a lot of learning in place and why it’s important.”

She explained the children were being kept in “bubbles” of 15 children and adults who will spend the whole day together, both in classroom and in separated areas of the playground.

The staff had also removed soft furnishings from classrooms and carried out intensive cleaning to ensure the school was abiding by Government guidance, she added.

Children have also been asked not to bring pencil cases and other items, with those being provided by the school.