A NEWLY qualified teacher has spoken of her family’s experience of returning to education since many schools closed down amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Barry Island mum, Penny Mickelsen completed her PGCE studies remotely while home-schooling her three children of Secondary and Primary school age as husband, Gary worked remotely.

Schools returned, with social distancing measures in place on Monday, June 29.


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Mrs Mickelsen said: “My youngest, Scott, aged eight, in year 3 at Barry Island Primary, returned to school in person on Monday for almost a full day of activities with a reduced class size.

“On Sunday afternoon, Scott kept asking if it was time for bed yet because he was so excited about getting back into the classroom.

“While Scott has interacted with all of the daily tasks sent home, and we have had a number of wellbeing phone calls from his teacher, and he has had online contact with some of his friends, the prospect of actually getting into the class was so appealing to him.

“Scott and I walked to school with him chatting eagerly about the day ahead and we were greeted at the school gate by his teacher.

“School had communicated clearly in advance about the extra safety measures in place - including a maximum of eight pupils in his class, and dedicated entrances for each class - but it was still a surprise for both of us to see his teacher wearing a face mask, a reality check which was consolidated by having to answer a few questions about his current health before he actually went into school.

“At the end of the day, Scott was brimming with details of the activities he had engaged with and is still looking forward to going back into school for one day per week until the summer holidays despite him having some concern about other children not keeping their distance.

“Both his teacher and I have now told him that he can politely remind other to maintain the 2m distance, as it is very easy to forget.

“Scott continues to receive online daily tasks to complete on the days he is not in school, and continues to receive personalised feedback on his work from his class teacher.”

St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School pupils Grace, 12, in year 7, and her brother Danny, 14 in year 9, have been scheduled for a two hour session in the first week and another 3.5h session before the summer holidays.

Mrs Mickelsen said: “I was at first unsure about the benefit of returning to school for such a short period of time prior to the summer holidays, but as Danny has Type1 diabetes, I felt it was important for him to see how the adjustments to the school routine might impact on his medical needs before a potentially slightly fuller return in September.

“For Grace it was important because she has been feeling quite anxious about the return so I wanted her to experience it for a short period in the hope of addressing any concerns she might have.

“For all of my children, I also felt that it was important to have a reminder that they are still receiving an education and that they are still part of a school community which cares deeply about their students, and to prepare them for how school might look in September.

“Danny returned to school on Tuesday, eager to see some friends with whom he has only interacted via text/phone since lockdown, and undoubtedly also to get away from the tedium of sitting at the table in the dining room looking at online work without any personal interaction with teachers.

“The session was mainly for a face-to-face wellbeing check, to ease pupils back into some classroom learning and to identify what has and hasn’t worked for the pupils with regards to the home learning resources in order to plan for September and the likelihood of continued blended learning.

“The school also took the opportunity to educate the pupils about covid-19 and reinforce the need for stringent safety measures both within and outside school.”

She added: “However individual schools and families are treating this opportunity, there seems very little likelihood that schools will be able to return to business as usual in September.

“This chance for actual contact with teaching staff has been very welcome for my children.”