How can we keep things as normal as possible for children while still protecting them?

We’ve all had a long, unwanted break from school in the past few months. Coronavirus entered our lives and turned them upside down. Although children around the world have had different experiences of Coronavirus there are some common themes. Most of the world’s children have had to spend time away from school in the past months and many of them have spent that time at home with limited access to the outdoors. Although many schools were able to continue some form on online communciation, children have missed having regular face-to-face contact with their teachers and friends. Now that society is coming to terms with a ‘new normal’ it’s time for our children to come back to their nurseries, kindergartens and schools, albeit under new conditions.

At Zigzag, we firmly believe in a child’s right to play. They should be given every opportunity to create, explore and construct their own learning. Due to Coronavirus there are many new restrictions placed upon schools but we believe that we can still provide our children with a friendly, exciting and stimulating environment that is physically safe and secure. We would like to share with you some of the precautions we have taken to ensure our children will be safe and free to play.

First of all, we have reduced our class sizes to ten children. There will still be two teachers in each class, one English speaking and one Turkish speaking. Each class can be thought of as a ‘bubble’ in which children will spend their time while at school. Each bubble will stay together all day. They will use common areas such as the dining room, the garden and the sleeping room separately. This is to minimse contact and cross-contamination. We will spend a good part of our day outdoors as we believe it is safer to be in fresh air.

Our school is regularly disinfected by a professional company as well as throughout the day by our cleaners. Children leave their classrooms every forty mintutes so their classrooms can be aired and cleaned. At the end of the day, all the toys and furniture in each class are disinfected ready for the next day. We check the temperatures of both children and staff four times a day and anybody showing symptoms of illnesses will be taken to an isolation room until they can be taken home. Any children or staff who are feeling ill will not be allowed to come to school until they have been free of any symptoms for at least 24 hours. Teachers regularly talk to the children and play games with them to emphasise the importance of staying clean and trying to keep their distance from each other. It is not physically possible for small children to keep away from each other and it is certainly not developmentally appropriate to expect them to do so. All we can do is to remind them of the dangers of germs in an age appropriate manner and be good role models for personal hygiene. Children change their clothes and wash their hands as soon as they arrive at school and continue to wash their hands at regular intervals throughout the day.

During this time we are unable to accept any visitors while the children are at school so we ask for your understanding in this matter. Parents can leave and collect their children at the main gate and any meetings are carried out after the children have gone home.

Once all these measures were put in place we invited our children back to school and it has been a joyful reunion. They are all so happy to be with their friends again and to have the freedom to play as they like. For months their lives have been out of their control in many ways. They have been told when they can go outside and where they can and can’t go. Now, more than ever, they just need some time and space to be able to play freely and to make decisions for themselves. You can feel the tension slipping away from them as they work through all the emotions they have built up during the past few months. Play is essential for small children, as much so as food and water. We’re so happy we’re able to offer our children this chance to safely play amongst their friends again.