The smiles and pure joy for schoolchildren as they return to class – and finally see their friends again

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There are strict staggered start times but children ran in to Cardiff’s Roath Park Primary when it re-opened to its youngest pupils today.

“I missed my friends,” said an excited six year-Sufyaan Manuar, waiting with his father Shiraz to go in.

Like his classmates he hasn’t seen his teachers or friends in person since before Christmas.

Schools could bring back four to seven year-olds from yesterday, but some councils have told them to wait until March.

But the excitement of the Foundation Phase classes at Roath Park Primary was plain to see. None seemed remotely nervous – or even had to be persuaded to go back in.

Schools have been shut in lockdown to all but keyworkers’ and vulnerable children for nine weeks.



Shiraz Manuar with son, Sufyaan Manuar, six, who missed his friends and teachers

Queueing at a social distance at separate entrances parents said they and their children were glad to be back and felt reassured by safety precautions.

When the school put out a questionnaire nearly 100% of its parents said they will send their children back as soon as allowed.

“This is difficult for adults and children. We’ve all missed so much. Sufyann has missed learning and being with friends,” said Shiraz.

“Children are the future. We have to move forward for society as a whole now with the smaller (Covid) rates and take up of the vaccine.

“Coming to school is a first step back to reality and I feel that we need to do this. Everyone is socially distancing and there are sanitisers everywhere. The school has been fantastic. I am happy with everything that’s in place.”



Rose Horridge with son Mabon, six

Rose Horridge and her son Mabon six, said the school had helped with home learning but it was good to be back for face to face learning and playing.

“I have loved having Mabon at home but he’s got to be back and he’s happy,” said Rose.

“We got into a routine with home learning and the school has been amazing, but he missed his friends.

“The school is so thorough and the communication about safety measures has been excellent.”



A class at Roath Park Primary as the youngest learners returned

As well as measures introduced last term teachers in all schools and colleges can have twice weekly Covid tests when they re-open. Masks must be worn by all adults, even by teachers in classrooms when social distancing is impossible.

Roath Park Primary is two form entry but has cut its year group contact bubbles of 60 to 30. This means children can no longer share classrooms as before, or join up for separate advanced maths classes, among other things, but risk of infection is reduced and fewer would have to self isolate if there was a case in a contact bubble.

Headteacher Jonathan Keohane said the school has done all it can and he hopes older pupils can return soon.

The Welsh Government announced two weeks ago that all pupils aged three to seven could return to school from February 22, but some are waiting until March and others are using the first few days of this week as planning days.

No firm date has been given for older children to return, but Education Minister Kirsty Williams said yesterday that some, not all, may start to return from March 15, depending on the situation with the coronavirus and NHS.



Teaching assistant Chris Webber

With worries about “lost learning”, year two teacher Sandi Burnett said teachers are trained to pick up on gaps.

The school has run two hours live online learning a day as part of its remote learning, but she said it was not the same as being at school with friends and teachers.

“I am absolutely delighted to be back in school with the children,” added Sandi.

“I have see the children online but that’s not the same. They have come in today excited and full of news.

“I am not worried about catch up learning because they catch up so fast if things are missing and we spot and pick up on anything needed. They are most keen today to talk and socialise together.”



A marquee for outdoor learning, PE and activities is being put up at Roath Park Primary as part of measures to reduce risk of infection while bringing children back in

Her teaching assistant Chris Webber said playing and working together is vital for children.

“They are ecstatic to be back. The school has had hub children in, but has felt really empty. I am confident about safety and our bubble groups.”

The school building is 136 years-old which means staff have had to be creative about how to keep groups separate and safe.

The headteacher has been helping build an outside marquee for PE and other activities and all classrooms are ventilated with open doors at all times.

Hand washing facilities or hand sanitiser stations are in every classroom and corridor.

Normally the school has 484 pupils and 72 staff in but for now there are just 120 three to seven year-olds as well as 60 hub children.



Roath Park Primary headteacher Jonathan Keohane

“Our parents have been great through this pandemic. They have worked with the school and we have had live question and answer sessions with them,” said headteacher Jonathan Keohane.

“I am a parent myself, I would say to any parents who are worried, trust us, we are interested in your children and want the best for them, the community and staff.

“We are delighted to resume face to face teaching. Especially for younger children classroom teaching is easier for them than online. We have put mitigation in place to make sure it is safe.”



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