Coronavirus: The primary school teachers making Covid-19 ‘less scary’


Sharon Dowie, Claire Moore, Emma Christie, Katie Wolsey and Kelly NortheyImage copyright
Katie Wolsey

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Teachers at Bangor Central have decorated their face shields

Coronavirus has been a daunting and uncertain time for everyone.

But for young children, the idea of masked-up teachers and a new way of working can be even more worrying.

So, how are primary schools adapting and what are they doing to put pupils’ minds at ease, while maintaining good hygiene standards?

From customised face shields to “snuffle stations” and one-way rainbow systems, BBC News NI has spoken to two teachers about the new school day.

“Understandably, many kids have come back to school feeling quite anxious with them being away for so long,” said Katie Wolsey, a P2 teacher at Bangor Central Integrated Primary School.

“There have been so many changes to their normal school life and all the new safety measures can be a little overwhelming.”

In response, teachers at Bangor Central Integrated have customised their face shields to make them appear less intimidating to younger pupils.

Ms Wolsey’s turned her safety visor into a sparkly crown with glitter and coloured paper while other teachers in P1 and P2 have attached stickers and bright-coloured fabrics to spruce up their visors.

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Katie Wolsey

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Ms Wolsey says pupils were “much more comfortable” with her wearing the visor after it had been customised

“Kids know what a crown is, but they might not fully understand what a visor is and why we have to wear one all the time,” said Ms Wolsey.

“It’s just like what they would see in a fairy tale or cartoon and if it helps take their minds off why I am actually wearing it then that’s all the better.

“Some kids have really struggled over lockdown and it is really important we do everything we can to help them settle back into school quickly.

“This is just a small way to help make the whole school experience during coronavirus appear a little less daunting for them.”

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Katie Wolsey

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Each child in P1 was given a teddy bear to take care of when they were at home during lockdown

The colourful visors are just one of a number of safety measures the County Down school has introduced this term.

There is a new one-way system to limit contact between pupils and also “snuffle stations” around the school to encourage good hand hygiene.

The playground has been split into designated zones for pupils and staggered start times mean that classes are never congregating together in one area at any given time.

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Katie Wolsey

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The school has also set up “snuffle stations” around the school to encourage proper hand hygiene among their pupils

At Ballywalter Primary School, on the Ards Peninsula, the key stage one playground has been decorated with hearts that are 2m apart so that parents can socially distance at collection and drop-off times.

Rainbow tape has been used in classrooms to mark out one-way systems and lining-up spots.

“I feel that as colleagues, we only want the best for our pupils,” P4 teacher Lauren McManus told BBC News NI.

“We want to make children feel safe and re-introduce them to some form of normality.

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Ballywalter PS

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Teachers will wear aprons in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus

“We have created a daily timetable for the whole school that ensures classes have staggered break times, lunch times and toilet times to avoid cross-contamination between bubbles.

“Classes have staggered start and end times to ensure only one bubble is using an entry/exit point at one time. Staff also have staggered times for breaks and lunches.”

While acrylic sheets have been fitted around teachers’ desks and pupils now sit in rows, operating in class “bubbles”, Miss McManus said that everything is being done to ensure pupils feel as comfortable in school as they can.

It is hoped that mirrors erected by the sinks will encourage children to stand and wash their hands for longer, and hand washing has been timetabled into daily routines for each class.

“Staff have put up displays, such as mirrors and tongue twisters, around their sinks to encourage children to wash their hands for the full 20 seconds,” added Miss McManus.

“Hand-washing videos and songs are being used too, particularly in younger classes.”

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Ballywalter PS

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At Ballywalter Primary School, pupils have been provided with essential item packs to avoid cross-contamination between home and school

At Ballywalter Primary School, children will no longer bring schoolbags or PE kits into school and “quarantine boxes” have been placed in each classroom for books and worksheets.

“These boxes are dated and sealed for 72 hours before anything inside is touched again,” explained Miss McManus.

“I feel safe in the school building, especially in my class bubble.

“Staff have been provided with everything they could need to minimise the risk of infection. Soap and hand sanitiser is available in all the classrooms and visors can be worn in bubbles.

“Bubbles have definitely helped people feel more comfortable within my classroom and everyone is working together to make sure we all feel safe.”



BBC News