It’s already been three weeks since my kids went back to school. Although they were looking forward to a bit of normality after six months at home, going back to school hasn’t really been going back to normal.
Initially they were very underwhelmed by their return. As my son said, ‘It’s school, but without the fun bits’. And school without the fun bits isn’t much fun at all. And it certainly isn’t normal.
Like all schools, theirs have had to interpret the government’s guidance as best they can. There are similarities and differences between the two schools, but they have both made lots of changes. Both of my kids are required to wear masks at all times when they are indoors, apart from in classrooms.
My daughter’s school has changed the timings of lunch and breaks, to minimise the time different year groups spend together. Both schools have given each year group bubble allocated spaces where they are allowed to hang out at lunchtime and break time. My daughter’s school has allocated toilet blocks for each year group – which isn’t good for her year group as their block only has two cubicles.
My son’s school has different timings for the canteen. Year 12 aren’t even allowed to use the main canteen and are having their food served in the 6th form block. A more limited menu means my son is taking his lunch in to school every day for the first time ever.
In addition, there are no PE and games lessons for 6th formers, as they just don’t have the space to do it safely. The school does provide it for years 7-11 as it’s a statutory requirement. For a very sporty boy, that is bad news. They have no idea when or if they will get to play rugby matches this year. Most of the schools round here do ‘senior’ rugby ie years 11-13 all in one team. Year 11 went badly for my son as he was recovering from injury and he only managed to play three games. If year 12 is completely wiped out, he won’t be happy.
His school always puts on a massive concert at the start of the year which at least 90% of the students take part in, even the non-musical ones like my son. It’s a big highlight of the year and it’s not happening.
A couple of things which have been better than ‘normal’, from my point of view at least, are that the kids are managing to get themselves out of bed every day and are also making their own packed lunches. I used to spend a good 20 minutes or more every morning trying to get my kids out of bed for school and it wasn’t fun. You know how people always say about parenting ‘You will miss it when it’s gone’? Well that’s one thing I don’t miss and never will. There are also people happy to say ‘You should leave them’ etc etc. For kids who have to be out of the house on time for a bus, that really isn’t an option.
But, for whatever reason, all of a sudden my kids are managing to get themselves up and they’re finding the time to make a sandwich, which I am very happy about.
So, after six months, I’ve got my own ‘normal’ back at home. I’ve worked at home on my own for over six years now. I like the freedom and the flexibility of freelance work. Occasionally I dislike the loneliness, but usually I manage to fill my time with a mixture of work, a few household chores and my running and walking. There were times when I missed the peace when there were five of us (and later three of us) at home. But most of the time, I coped pretty well with trying to work in a house which wasn’t the peaceful place I’m used to.
After all that time, I thought I might miss the kids. But I’m glad to have my ‘normal’ back. Who knows how long it will stay that way, with year groups having to isolate when kids test positive for Covid-19? But I will make the most of it while I can.
One day, life may really be back to normal and back to school actually will mean back to normal. But not in 2020. And maybe not even in 2021.