The changes Mansfield schools are making as they welcome students back to the 'new normal'
Students in Mansfield are returning to school this week for the first time since March, but due to the coronavirus pandemic numerous measures have had to be put in place to keep the pupils and staff safe, including one-way systems, live streaming of lessons, and group ‘bubbles’.
Upon returning to the classrooms for the autumn term, schools across Nottinghamshire have had to make changes to their usual routine to put the health and safety of pupils and staff first.
Upon guidance from the government, schools have had to carry out risk assessments and make the necessary changes to the education environment so that the virus does not spread.
Changes differ from school to school and include the use of face coverings, live streaming lessons, and the changing of classrooms to spread pupils out around the classroom, to avoid unnecessary contact.
Gavin Peake, director of IT, estates and learning resources at West Nottinghamshire College, which has campuses in Mansfield, Kirkby and Sutton and welcomes pupils back for the autumn term this week, said: “We have implemented a range of measures to make it as safe as possible for students and staff to be on site, whilst maintaining a great experience for our learners.
“The biggest change is the adoption of a 50/50 model in virtually all subject areas, whereby one half of a class attends a lesson in-person while the other half joins in at home via a live, two-way video stream; or students come in for lessons on alternate weeks and study remotely at home in between.
“We have installed more than 150 ceiling-mounted cameras and microphones in all classrooms and workshops to enable live-streaming of lessons.
“Although the regulations regarding FE colleges do allow larger groups to be together, we are trying to minimise contact between different groups of students as much as we can.
“Students are taught in ‘bubbles’ and timetables have been staggered. Our canteens are closed for dining and are instead operating a ‘grab and go’ service, with students and staff expected to take their lunches back to their classrooms or offices. A socially-distanced queuing system is in place and all food is sold in takeaway boxes with disposable, biodegradable cutlery.
“We have employed additional cleaning staff, installed hand-sanitisers in prominent locations, and altered our air-movement systems to only draw-in fresh air rather than recycled air. Teachers are advised to stay two-metres away from students if possible and to open windows to allow air to circulate in classrooms.
“One-way systems are in place on most stairwells and corridors, and students are expected to stay one-metre apart from others outside their own group, where feasible.
“We are urging everybody to wash their hands more frequently than normal or use hand-sanitiser – that remains the single biggest thing people can do on our campuses.”
See more of the changes at West Nottinghamshire College here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=y05biMA_M8I&feature=youtu.be.
Not all schools are returning on the same date, with some staggering when particular year groups will start, and some having training days for staff to get used to the new measures.
Although not a mandatory requirement, some secondary schools and sixth forms in Mansfield are allowing students to wear face coverings, if that would make them more comfortable being back in the school environment.
Michael Lucas, headteacher at the Brunts Academy, where they carried out a full risk assessment for returning to school, said online: “Face coverings are not required for schools in England unless they are in lockdown areas of the country and we will not be encouraging their use as a Trust at this time.
"However, if students feel they really want to wear a face covering in communal areas only, then permission would be granted as long as it is used properly.
"This follows the latest guidance from government and is subject to change should that guidance be adjusted.
“Trustees and the Trust are meeting regularly to ensure that our approach remains appropriate and maintains the very best safety standards possible."
He added: “Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to say how excited we are to fully open the Academy and welcome back our students.
"Academy life will be different but our focus remains ensuring our students are safe and achieve.”
See www.brunts.notts.sch.uk/parent_information/school_reopening_pla/ for the full re-opening plan and risk assessment.
All students in all year groups will return to Hall Park Academy on Mansfield Road this Friday, September 4, after slowly integrating particular year groups back in.
Chris West, deputy headteacher at Hall Park Academy on Mansfield Road, said: “Like other schools across the country, at the Hall Park Academy we have a reopening plan that has students' safety at the heart of it.
"We have organised our students into year group 'home areas' around the school site, in which they will be based in these areas for their lessons and pastoral activities.
"Our classrooms in these areas have been redesigned to allow all of the students to be forward-facing with the required distancing between staff and students.
"The timings of the school day have been radically changed to facilitate the staggering of break times and travel between home and school, but still allow all of our students to access their full curriculum.”