PRIMARY school children in Upper Wharfedale have been excitedly returning to school ever since the start of June, following the easing of coronavirus restrictions, doing not only maths and English, but also learning about the Ancient Greeks, and Victory in Europe (VE) Day, as well as many other subjects.

All four schools of the Upper Wharfedale Primary Federation - Burnsall VA, Cracoe and Rylstone VC CoE, Grassington VC CoE, and Kettlewell, have been welcoming children back, while Grassington has been open throughout the lockdown, a central hub for the children of key workers, even during school holidays and bank holidays.

By the end of the current term, all of the pupils in the federation of schools will have had the opportunity to return to their classrooms and see their friends.

The federation, which formed three years ago, says children from reception, year one and year six, will have been in their own schools full time for the whole half term, the older ones helping the younger ones develop essential phonics skills and providing transition work for older children.

From June 22, all four schools opened their doors to all other year groups in carefully timetabled ‘bubbles’, to comply with government guidelines on coronavirus.

Children attending school have benefitted from being part of a federation, while those at home have been able to access a varied programme of home learning lessons and resources through the federation’s own website and also with printed work packs.

Besides daily maths and English lessons, in association with White Rose Maths and BBC Bitesize, the children have created topic work on VE Day and The Ancient Greeks, as well as science, history and art projects tailored for all year groups, says the federation.

Children have also been continuing with virtual music lessons, such as the guitar, via Skype. And, as well as academic work, staff have been focussing on the children’s social and emotional needs, making the most of the schools’ outdoor facilities to boost mental and physical well-being after the stress and restrictions of lockdown, it says.

The two co- executive headteachers, Ella Besharati and Christine Boxall, teachers and staff have been working since March and throughout the holidays to provide the best possible provision for all children, at home and in school.

Mrs Besharati, said: “I am so proud of how our team has worked so hard and pulled together to really offer the best possible opportunities for all our children in these very difficult times.

“ I also couldn’t be prouder of our children, from their attitude to home learning and being isolated from their friends, to their responsible approach to our social distancing measures, cleaning regimes and their school being a very different place to normal.”

Mrs Boxall, added how being part of the federation has helped staff manage the workload and difficult circumstances smoothly and efficiently.

She said: “Because we have a large pool of staff across the federation, we have been able to share the workload and the rotation of people in school, ensuring we look after the well-being of our team as well as our children.”

Many parents have also commended the schools for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, including one parent of a Cracoe pupil, who said, “The creativity around the rota system for all children and the determination to give all children the opportunity to come back to school for some time before the summer holidays is just amazing, and I know they have all worked hard to achieve this”.

In response to local need and parental demand, the Upper Wharfedale Primary Federation has also published a consultation on offering its own pre-school nursery provision, for children from three years old.

Chairman of governors Anne Vetch, said: “This an exciting opportunity, for our federation and for local families, and we are delighted to have received so much support from the local communities of all four schools. Watch this space.”

Stuart Carlton, North Yorkshire County Council’s Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Service said: “As our schools begin to return, it’s important parents and students are reassured they are safe and measures are in place to keep them that way.The hard work of our teachers means creative and safe measures have been put in place to give children a stable learning environment. “