More children in schools during Lockdown 3
AS many as one in three children are attending lessons at some schools in the Downend, Mangotsfield and Staple Hill area in the third lockdown.
Schools say the amount of home learning organised online for other pupils has been stepped up, with more live lessons via video links and increased contact and interaction, with more work being uploaded and marked than in the first lockdown last March.
Schools are also organising laptops, through both government schemes and donations, to give to families who do not have the necessary technology at home.
At Blackhorse Primary School, 139 pupils – one in three – are attending school, including 40 classed as vulnerable.
Head teacher Simon Botten said children, staff and parents alike had to "zip up their hero suits" to find the strength to adapt to the new circumstances.
Mr Botten said the latest lockdown announcement left them just one day to organise home learning and decide who to accept into school, adding: "In my 14 years as a headteacher it was one of the most stressful days of my career.
"The staff were incredible. They know the risks which they face by being in school but every last one just rolled up their sleeves and set about moving learning online, whilst also teaching in school – including daily live video call lessons, video tutorials and even daily individual calls to hear children read."
Mr Botten said the three tablets and laptops provided for the school by the Department for Education was a "woefully inadequate" number, so parents helped solve the problem by donating old tablets, buying new ones to donate or giving cash so that every child would have access to a device and would not have to share with others.
About one in four pupils is still attending Barley Close Community Primary School in Mangotsfield.
Head teacher Jo Williams said: "This has increased from the March lockdown. We have spoken to all our vulnerable families and offered a place.
"Classes are now in year group bubbles and as we have large year group teams, some staff are in, teaching face to face, and others staying home to do the remote learning.
"We are also calling our families weekly to ensure all is OK and can help support over the phone. The children in school are getting the same learning as the children at home, so when we can all be together again we will all have done the same."
The school is also organising food parcels for children who receive free school meals, which are delivered to any families self-isolating.
Ms Williams added: "We have been really fortunate with the DfE laptop scheme – we had 18 given to families in July and we now have a further 38 to allocate."
Will Roberts, chief executive of the Castle School Education Trust, which runs Downend School and Mangotsfield School, said about one in every ten pupils was in school.
He said numbers were higher this time partly because more key workers were going in to work, and partly because the first lockdown had shown both that it was "advantageous" to have vulnerable children in school, and the best way to organise this safely. Mr Roberts said it was difficult to fund and to find devices for all staff and pupils who need them.
He said: "We have had our deliveries of government ones, which arrived after Christmas, but still not as many as we would ideally have. So we’re not being prescriptive about the style of learning, because if it’s all live learning you need a particular device all of the time. Parents sometimes need more flexibility over what device they can use."
CSET schools were set to start Covid-19 testing for staff from January 18.