Children said they were “absolutely delighted” to be reunited with their teachers as Scotland’s youngest pupils returned to school this morning.
Those in primary one to three were the first to part with their parents and move back to in-classroom lessons as the nation takes its first tentative steps out of the latest lockdown.
Six-year-old Lucy was one of the first ones to enter her classroom at Laurencekirk Primary School and greet her friends and teachers.
The primary two pupil, whose favourite subject is Maths, said she was “really happy” to be back.
She said: “Having my teachers and my friends back makes me really happy, because I really missed them.
“I will see my best friends, play in the playground and do some good work today.
“I love maths and my mum is good, but I missed learning with my teachers.”
A difficult transition
Dozens of parents dropped off their children “bright and early” for a 9am start at the Aberdeenshire school.
Kirsty Sephton, whose son is in a mixed class of primary three and four pupils, thought the phased return to school was something of a bittersweet experience for children.
The 43-year-old explained the difficulties that had emerged during the last two months of home-learning.
Mrs Sephton said: “It would definitely be a hard start as he is now used to just having a few hours of learning and then playing with the dog outside, to suddenly be thrown into a full day back away from home.
“I think this is the thing with going in and out of school – it has really broken that daily routine of having classes all day, so even getting up was a bit hard this morning.
“Of course, I understand why they closed, and I’m happy he is back.”
She added: “The teachers have done a really amazing job with online learning during these two months, but it would be so much better for him to be in class.
“My son is an only child, so finally having his friends around him will do him a world of good.”
A number of mitigations and new safety rules have been put in place at schools across Scotland ahead of this morning.
Parents and carers dropping off and collecting pupils are asked to do so wearing a mask, avoiding car sharing or public transport, while maintaining a social distance and doing the drop alone so as to reduce congestion.
Aberdeenshire Council’s education and children’s services director Laurence Findlay said: “The priority is getting young people back into routine and into a learning environment, as well as focusing on their health and wellbeing, and social skills.
“The schools have done an amazing job in the past two weeks since the announcement was made just to get us ready for today.
“All the risk assessment details have been updated with various mitigations put in place to support safe spaces in the school.
“Communications have also gone out to parents not to congregate when they take the children to school and make sure there is plenty of physical distancing between them.”
Focus on digital technology
Mr Findlay added: “Digital technology would probably have a greater role in future than it has had until now.
“There is a lot of talk about the loss of learning in these two months, but actually there has been a lot of good learning going on at home as well.
“We’ve probably come around 10 years ahead in how we use technology and this plays a big role in identifying gaps in learning, and looking at how we can work collectively to support pupils.
“It would never replace the fundamental interaction between a teacher and a pupil in a classroom, but there are some elements from this experience that we’d want to keep in the future and build on these digital approaches of learning.”
Laurencekirk Primary School head teacher, Jill Smith, said the aim is to blend the traditional and technological systems.
She said: “We are absolutely delighted to welcome all of our pupils back where they belong to resume face-to-face teaching.
“Our main priority is to make this transition as smooth as possible and help pupils re-engage.
“But there is a real opportunity for some robust conversations about education and how we can learn and grow in this pandemic, to move things forward.
“We have had no choice but to develop our confidence in using digital technology and we must capitalise on that and keep that momentum going.
“But it has also given us time to reflect on the other things that we truly value – the active learning, the face-to-face interaction and the collaboration.
“So we now need to fuse all of these together and create an education system that fits in the 21st century.”