Oakham School is busy preparing to open its campus and return to face-to-face teaching on Monday 8 March, after seven weeks of Distance Learning.
“I am delighted that we will see the vast majority of our pupils back on campus,” says Headmaster Henry Price. “It will be wonderful to once again have the children safely back and enjoying being with their friends in the classroom, on the sports fields, playing music and on the stage.”
The School has reviewed all of its extensive procedures that were already in place and updated them according to the new government guidance. “The most significant change in the return to school procedures is the testing of staff and children, which we see as a positive step to help keep both the Oakham School and wider Oakham town community safe,” says Sarah Gomm, Deputy Head Pastoral. “In addition, in the week before pupils are due back to School, all families will be sent a pre-arrival declaration form which must be filled in before a pupil can be in School. This will allow us to be as confident as we can be that all pupils and staff are safe to return for testing.”
The School will be carrying out a comprehensive testing programme, in line with government guidance. “Staff who have been in School since January have been doing Lateral Flow Tests, which has allowed us to be confident in our testing procedures as well as our safety and infection measures,” continues Sarah. “Day pupils and UK-based Boarders will be tested over the weekend before School returns on 8 March, in three separate venues across the campus.”
In line with government guidance, pupils and staff will also be wearing face coverings inside – both in corridors and classrooms. “If social distancing can be achieved during lessons, masks may be removed at the discretion of the member of staff,” adds Sarah. “We will also expect pupils and staff to wear an Oakham face covering when they move around the campus during the school day.”
Learning without interruption continues to be at the heart of Oakham’s educational provision. Pupils who are unable to return to School – those who are international boarders or those pupils who are in self-isolation – will benefit from Oakham’s blended learning environment. Lessons will continue to be accessible via MS Teams, meaning that pupils can either engage remotely at the same time, or catch up by watching the recorded lesson at a time that suits them best.
All families have been sent a comprehensive Sway document, full of information to help prepare children to return to School. As well as covering the logistics of returning safely, the document provides help and guidance for supporting pupils’ wellbeing in the transition back to School. “We have an array of supportive ideas to prepare children over the coming days and weeks to be ready to learn and to ensure their happiness and wellbeing,” concludes Sarah. “This includes everything from advice on establishing good sleep routines, mixing up activities at home to prepare children for the vibrancy of school life, and suggesting coping strategies. Most importantly, we encourage and remind all of our families to keep an open and honest dialogue with our extensive pastoral teams – who are all ‘on hand’ to support the children to be confident and happy in their learning.”