End of a school year like no other
SCHOOLS have had to find new ways to say goodbye to leavers after "a year like no other".
And their next challenge will be to welcome all pupils back in September, while still keeping everyone safe.
Traditional end-of-year events, from leavers' proms and discos to residential camps, had to be cancelled, with video messages and socially-distanced events taking their place for the Year 2, Year 6, Year 11 and Year 13 pupils completing their journeys through the area's schools.
Christ Church Junior School's Year 6 pupils had no SATS exams, no camp and spent a term being home-schooled, but more than 60 of the 72 children in the year went back for the final term from June 1.
Their last week included a virtual leavers' service, kite making and flying, a picnic and each child decorating tiles, which have been fixed to the outside wall of the library.
Head teacher Pippa Osborne said: "I am incredibly proud of our year 6 leavers – they have shown great resilience in this time of change and uncertainty. It has been a year like no other we have ever known before, yet the whole year group took every change and challenge in their stride."
At Bromley Heath Infant School, Year 2 pupils spent two sessions back with their class teachers and half of their classmates before graduation ceremonies were held on the front lawn.
Kirsti Harris, who is taking over as head after Tina Long retired at the end of term in July, said: "Although not as we would have planned at the start of the year, we hope our special celebrations provide some positive memories for pupils and families as they move onto the next step of their exciting learning journey."
Year 2 pupils had a four week plan to help with their transition to junior school, including short visits to their new school and meeting teachers.
Like all other schools, Christ Church Infants staff have been busy preparing to implement government guidance on bringing all pupils back in September.
Head teacher Anna Martin said she had been planning on the basis that all children will return into full classes, with each class kept separate from the others at all times, in 'class pods'.
She said: "This has been a priority in our planning, so that if a child becomes unwell with Covid-19 only that class had to close, rather than a whole year group or school.
"We have changed our toilets into unisex toilets so that each class pod has its own toilet and cloakroom. The outdoor spaces and halls will be divided into zones so that children can play outside but in a restricted way."
Mrs Martin said start and finishing times and lunchtimes would be staggered to help keep different groups apart, with daily distanced year group assemblies.
Welcoming reception pupils for their first days at Bromley Heath Infant School will be "very different", according to Mrs Harris.
Teachers have used video calls, virtual tours and filmed story times to help introduce the new starters to school. There will be visits in small groups with parents before children start a "phased induction" in the second week of September.
Secondary schools have had to say goodbye to Year 11 pupils and Year 13 students without both exams and the traditional celebrations that follow.
At Downend School, teachers made a farewell video for Year 13 leavers, while Year 11 tutors wrote messages for their classes which were shared.
Head teacher Lisa Howell told leavers: "Although this summer has not been the one you would have planned and although you left us so suddenly and we didn’t have chance for many of the usual rites of passage to take place, we hope that your memories of your time at Downend are happy ones.
"You have acquitted yourselves admirably over the past few months and now are about to set off into the world as adults. We hope that your time with us has prepared you to take your place in the world as kind, decent and intellectually curious young people, with a strong sense of integrity and a passion for making the world a better place."
The school has produced a regular 'wall of pride' to celebrate the work of pupils studying remotely during the past term.
At Mangotsfield School, Year 11s have received a personalised leavers' magazine and the school has produced a video with farewell and good luck messages from staff.
The school hopes to arrange a prom later in the year.
In September, Downend School pupils will be back in full-size classes in "year group bubbles", with staggered starts and finishes to the day. It means that Year 7 and 8 pupils will start and finish five minutes before older year groups, but enter and leave by gates at opposite sides of the school site. There will be 'zones' for different year groups and no food sold in the canteen.
In a letter, the school said that guidance is "that students should be supported to maintain social distance, while acknowledg-ing that this may not always be possible".