King's pupils are jumping for joy to be back at school with a near 100 per cent uptake for their phased re-opening. Both the younger pupils in the Pre-School, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 classes in the Infant & Junior Division as well as the older students in Years 10 and 12 in the Senior Division, who take public examinations next year, are back in class after the 12-week lockdown.
In the Senior Division at Cumberland Street, students come in on a rota for one full day each week so there is a quarter of the school roll in any one time. This is in addition to their remote learning with the term extended to July 10. They stay in the same, small groups throughout the day to minimise contact both in class and during downtime. There are staggered arrival and departures times, sanitising stations in all classrooms and facilities; a one-way system for movement around the corridors with sections of the front field allocated to each group to avoid mingling during breaks.
Richard Griffiths, King's Deputy Head (Academic), said: "Our pupils have been fantastic during lockdown; resilient, hard-working and independent. They have responded brilliantly to both the academic lessons and wellbeing challenges we have set every day on our Virtual Learning Environment.
"We have delivered a mixed diet of live streaming lessons using the Microsoft Teams and narrated PowerPoints, while also setting independent learning challenges to ensure we limit screen time to healthy levels.
"In addition, we have set a series of wellbeing activities, such as getting the pupils outdoors and completing Physical Education routines to ensure we keep spirits up, prevent listlessness and alienation."
Mr Griffiths added: "We have just completed progress tests and a curriculum audit and are confident the pupils have progressed as they should and are up-to-date with their learning."
In the Infant & Junior Division at Fence Avenue, all the children in Pre-School, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 have had the opportunity to return with a near maximum turnout of 130 young ones at school every day. Year 2 is set to return from 25 June and children in Years 3, 4 and 5 will come in for a number of experiential days before the end of term to help transition to their next year group and, importantly, the new school campus in September.
The younger ones work in groups of a maximum of 12 pupils with similar social distancing systems for the classroom layouts, hygiene stations, one-way systems and staggered drop-off and pick-up points for parents.
Principal of the Infant & Junior Division Rachel Cookson said: "A school simply isn't the same place without children, so it's absolutely wonderful to be back. During lockdown we offered a four phase programme of remote learning beginning with daily set work tasks, moving rapidly into to a more interactive platform involving face-to-face sessions and small group teaching opportunities using Microsoft Teams. Staff have worked incredibly hard, using their superb knowledge of the pupils to provide creative lessons. From narrated PowerPoint seminars across the curriculum to pastoral sessions and extend and re-teach lessons, our pupils have worked hard and shown real resilience.
"Similar to the Senior pupils, the children's pastoral welfare has been our priority from the get-go. Our Pastoral Team has offered superb support to all pupils, thinking up challenges to promote well-being and simply keeping in touch with those younger ones who have found the new situation strange and overwhelming.
"I feel that the staff have gone above and beyond what we expected to ensure all of our children have their individual needs met to ensure their progress and educational development during a challenging time."
King's PE staff set-up a YouTube channel for their live sessions which included PE lessons, strength & conditioning sessions and fun activities. Music instrumental lessons have continued online, with Zoom and Facetime platforms supporting one-to-one teaching. King's choirs and music ensembles have also turned to hi-tech solutions to enable them to practice together. Assemblies, Governors Meetings and even Parents' Evenings have taken place virtually since the start of lockdown.
Mrs Cookson added: "We are anticipating a full return in September and will be able to meet any social distancing measures still deemed essential as we have extra space and more classrooms at our new campus on Alderley Road."
While King's has welcomed back pupils at their old sites, they are also preparing to open the new campus with over 200 construction workers from Vinci Construction working seven days a week at the fantastic £60 million campus on final details and snagging. Indeed, back at Fence Avenue and Cumberland Street work has begun on packing up sections of the school where pupils are not in class, ready for the removal teams when term finishes later in the summer.