When 11-year-old Carl returned to his primary school in south-east London this week almost everything had changed. He spoke to the BBC after lessons every day to paint a picture of a school in lockdown.
Monday 1 June
I hadn’t put on my uniform in months, and it felt strange. I couldn’t wear my tie – the school said it was to avoid any infection from ties dragging across different surfaces. I could only take a bottle of water in with me and no bag. When we arrived at the school gates we had to queue 2m apart. My mum shouted “Hi” and “Are you all right?” to some of the other parents, but there was no chatting.
Before I entered the school building, I had to wash my hands for 20 seconds. We all had our own desks and were sitting apart from everyone else. Once you had chosen your desk, that was yours until the end of term, you couldn’t sit anywhere else.
There were nine children in my class today, the maximum we can have in our class bubble is 10, and it was made up of a variety of students from different Year 6 classes. I had a different teacher and teaching assistant. They didn’t wear masks, but kept their distance and stayed at the front of the class. At times they would say, “Time for hand sanitising!”
The teachers have put up some rules showing what you should do inside the school building. One is that we have to follow a one-way system when we are walking around the school. To make sure we keep our distance, the teachers say “Stretch out your arms,” and if you are almost touching someone, you have to back up or go forwards. If we are going somewhere, you can only start walking when the person in front of you has taken three steps.
We had Maths and English today and we ate our lunch in the classroom. When it came to outdoor play, the playground had been divided up into squares and you could choose three or four friends from your class to be in a square with you, while still social distancing. Once you had chosen, you would stay with the same people for outdoor play until the end of term. I looked at two of my friends. It took just one glance and we knew the three of us would be in a square together.
‘We’re back to happiness’
Four Year 6 children from schools in England explain their feelings on going back to school, including their worry about spreading the virus, the difficulty of not being able to hug a friend and “getting back into happiness”.
When we used to play basketball on the court, we could pass the ball to each other with our hands. I miss that. In the square I was in today we had tennis balls and I could bowl the ball, but I’d have to go and pick it up myself, no-one could catch it. If you were in the square with the footballs, you could kick the ball to someone, but not touch the ball with your hands or tackle anyone.
Four of my close friends have not returned to school.
Tuesday 2 June
We had PE today and so I wore my PE kit to school this morning. It was colder on the way to school and I had goosebumps. Our teacher says the virus can stay on clothing, so we cannot change into our sports kit at school like we normally would. We wore it there and stayed in it until we went home.
We were outside more today. We had science and we walked in a single line around the school grounds, always staying three steps behind someone, looking at the habitats of insects.
In our PE lesson we had a competition between different groups, you all had your own tennis ball and one of the things we had to do was bowl the ball, and if you hit the wicket your group got a point. We also practised our fast footwork by weaving in and out of cones.
My favourite lesson is Maths. I would like to be a computer engineer in the future. I usually go to Maths club after school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but all clubs have been cancelled.
I preferred what school was like before the lockdown, but I’m getting more used to the feel of how it is now. Even though you have to keep your distance from your friends, you can still chat to them, and we have invented what we call invisible high fives – it’s like a normal high five, but into the air.
Wednesday 3 June
We did two new subjects today – History and Art. In History we learnt all about the history of London. In Art we came up with ideas based on artist Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture. My design was a leaf and in the middle was a hole where the sunlight pointed through.
One of my friends didn’t come to school today, so there were only two of us in our square for outdoor play. We’re really good friends and I missed him, but I still had my other friend there.
We don’t see anyone else from the other classes during the day as they do different activities at different times and they enter and leave the school at different times too.
I used to go to school and come home by myself, but with the new routine, my mum takes and collects me. She says it’s like it was when I was back in Year 1.
School finishes 30 minutes earlier than it did before the lockdown and mum says it’s quieter at the school gates when she takes me and picks me up.
Sports Life. Real News. Real Voices
Help us tell more of the stories that matterSupport Us
Every year in summer we would have sports day and it was good because we got to do different competitions in different groups, but we won’t have sports day this year.
This is my last year at primary school. There would usually be a huge party for us at the end of term and we’d take part in Year 6 productions. It’s a shame I won’t get to experience these.
Thursday 4 June
Even though it’s been different this week, it’s been nice being back at school.
We had Design and Technology today and learnt about mechanics, and we wrote a description of the main character in a book we have been reading called Rooftoppers.
In PSHCE (Personal Social Health and Citizens Education), we learnt about the riots that have been happening in the US after the death of George Floyd.
It was my turn in the football square on the field today, in outdoor play. It was good to be back playing football. My friend wasn’t in school again, but he says he’ll be back next week.
Mum says the school set-up is beginning to feel more normal. She is really impressed at how the teachers always make sure everyone sticks to the social distancing. She is looking forward to when everything can go back to how it used to be, and being able to chat at the school gates again, but she says she knows it’s going to take a while.
Friday 5 June
We had a half day at school today. The teachers have said the school will be shut on Friday afternoons for a deep clean.
We went into school in our PE kit again, like we did on Tuesday, but we didn’t have PE – it’s to give everyone an extra day for our uniforms to be washed.
I’m looking forward to going back to school again on Monday. I’m also looking forward to secondary school in September. Mum says she’s excited for my “new adventure in Year 7” too. She says she’s really proud of me.
My mum has a message for any other students who are planning to go back to school again for the first time next week.
“I know it’s a bit scary for some people but just be open-minded and just look on the bright side,” she says, “and try to be calm and try to be positive.”
As told to Lucy Wallis.
All photographs courtesy of Carl’s mother or primary school.
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe