A named plastic bag filled with a jumble of stationery in lieu of the normal pencil case and everyday clothes in lieu of a uniform. A one-way system around the corridors and allocated timeslots for drop-off and collection. Security guards in masks and teachers wearing aprons and gloves. A classroom filled with only half the children it once had.
To borrow a phrase, it’s back to school, Jim, but not as we know it.
This week saw the phased reopening of schools for pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, a move that was extended to more than two million children across the country.
It was a gentle, gradual return to school, the first of a series of baby steps that meant my youngest could finally go back to reception for the first time in ten weeks.
For my nine-year-old daughter, it also meant the opportunity as the child of a keyworker, to get some much-needed routine back into her life.
Let’s face it, being the child of two parents working more or less full-time from home was never going to be very conducive to also fitting in core subjects, homework tasks, arts and crafts and PE lessons with Joe Wicks, which I’m not ashamed to admit quickly wilted by the roadside after a few weeks. A daily walk or scoot around the block would have to suffice.
Like many parents we certainly tried our best, but lockdown taught us the juggle of this new life was real.
It all made so much sense to send them both back, but it was not a decision made easily. In fact, there was much agonising over whether lockdown really was lifting too soon, whether we were putting our children and ourselves at risk of this virus that has incomprehensibly changed the landscapes of our lives.
But as we entered the gates on Monday, our anxieties soon faded and I gained a renewed appreciation for the teachers who are bravely and tirelessly working to make this happen.
Our world as we knew it has irrevocably changed, but I only needed to look at the children to understand their happiness at being back, reunited with their teachers, their friends, their school.
It’s a tiny slice of normality in an otherwise changed world – and for now that will suit us all just fine.