CHILDREN are bursting with joy after a bubble scheme was extended to their whole school, allowing pupils to return to the classroom for their final weeks of term.

Barnard Castle Preparatory School has successfully operated the initiative with Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils, along with the children of key workers.

Years 2, 3, 4 and 5 are now joining the system of ‘bubbles’ of no more than 15 children, each with designated staff, where they will stay for the duration of the school day, to avoid contact with others during lessons, break and lunchtime.

Parents were sent a safety video outlining the new measures introduced to safeguard the health of children and staff.

They include pupils being assigned their own entrances, exits, classrooms, play areas and toilets, floor stickers about social distancing, drop off bays in the car park where parents are asked health questions and pupils’ temperatures taken and children wear clean clothes every day – uniform no longer essential.

Classrooms have been cleared of unnecessary items and equipped with hand sanitisers, the school provides all classroom equipment, which is sanitised regularly and staff have access to PPE should the need arise, while domestic and maintenance colleagues have masks, face shields and gloves.

Headmistress Laura Turner said: “I have nothing but praise for the way pupils, parents and staff have engaged with our Learning@Home programme, which has minimised the impact of the pandemic on their academic learning.

“Pupils have enjoyed their online interaction but will certainly value seeing their classmates in person again. This time back in the classroom will allow them a sense of closure to this unprecedented academic year before, hopefully, starting afresh in September.”

Most senior students continue to learn from home.

Students have been able to maintain their academic, sporting, cultural and spiritual learning via a virtual learning platform comprising assignments, video and live-streaming contact with teachers.

A programme of activities, ranging from rugby coaching to baking, chess to debating, film club to music and a host of sports, are available to students, as well as a host of House competitions.

Headmaster Tony Jackson said: “We are continuing to follow Government guidelines and, working within those parameters, are organising some contact clinics for our Year 10 and 12 students.

“The strength of the Learning@Home programme is that it maintains our principal objectives – to engage the Barney community in learning that ensures progress is maintained, both academically and individually, and for us all to emerge stronger characters.”