AS Swindon pupils go back to school for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown, one headteacher said she was looking forward to getting back to “a semblance of normality”.

Dorcan Academy head Sherryl Bareham has overseen a raft of new measures introduced into the school which will allow all the 780 pupils aged 11-16 to start the new school year in a Covid-19 safe environment.

“We’ve done everything we can to make the school as safe as possible,” she said. “We’re all just looking forward to getting back into the swing of things and getting them back into some kind of semblance of normality as soon as possible.”

As part of the new safety measures designed to minimise the risk of spreading the virus the school has introduced a one-way system as well as a staggered start to each day with year groups arriving in 10-minute intervals, using two different entrances.

Mrs Bareham said: “It’s all quite different on site. Even though we feel like we’ve thought of everything there are going to be things that we haven’t thought of that come up.”

Break times and lunchtimes are also staggered and different year groups are housed in particular sections of the school for all their lessons.

“We’ve kept people in year group bubbles the whole time,” said Mrs Bareham.

“So all of Year 7 are in the maths block for example, and will stay in the same room for most of their lessons with the teachers moving rooms instead.”

Inside the classroom students all face forwards, sitting side by side at their desks, and at lunchtimes only on one side of each table instead of both sides. The school has also invested in two big marquees so they can accommodate all pupils at lunchtime, cleaning the area before the next group come through.

Sherryl added: “It’s been loads of work getting everything sorted. The site staff have been amazing. They’ve been working throughout the holidays, getting everything ready and sorting out all the rooms. Our finance and facilities manager has done an amazing job.”

At the moment mask wearing is optional in corridors and communal areas, though they will not be worn in classrooms to help communication.

The headteacher added that while the school will follow government policy she wouldn’t welcome mandatory mask wearing for all students.

Mrs Bareham said: “If the government’s policy changes so that everyone has to wear masks, then that’s absolutely what we would do.

“But while the government says it’s not mandatory, I’m going to stick with that because I want school to be normal as possible for the children


She added: “I also think they will probably be more problem than they are worth because teenagers are not going to remember to put their mask in a plastic bag every time they take it off, and wash their hands afterwards. That’s not just going to happen because adults don’t even manage to do that.”

Mrs Bareham said it was important pupils returned to school this term.

She said: “They’ve lost a lot through lockdown but I’m confident that we are going to be able to catch them up.

“We are aware that for some students the lockdown experience hasn’t been fabulous and some pupils may have had some really difficult times during the last few months and we are ready for that.

“We’re not going to be dwelling on what they’ve missed and the enormous gaps we may have to fill in some cases.

“Our core business is filling gaps and helping students catch up. That’s what we do as teachers, and we’re just going to get on with it,” she said.