Therapy dog welcomes pupils back to Skegness school

There is a new buzz at a Skegness school this week and the smile on the face of the headteacher tells it all - her pupils and staff are back at long last.

So pleased to see you! Head teacher Mrs Caroline Wellsted with the new school therapy dog, welcoming pupils Amaiya Facey 8 and Torin Facey 11
So pleased to see you! Head teacher Mrs Caroline Wellsted with the new school therapy dog, welcoming pupils Amaiya Facey 8 and Torin Facey 11

This morning's reopening of the Richmond School, like at so many others on the area, was a milestone moment in the pandemic - marking the beginning of the roadmap outlining the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

During the third lockdown since the pandemic began a year ago, the school remained open for 150 children of key workers but on Monday all 420 pupils were expected to return.

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The Standard has followed the Richmond School's pandemic journey and managed to snatch a few minutes with headteacher Mrs Caroline Wellstead between her welcoming the pupils and chatting to parents.

Deputy head Ricki Danks with the new school therapy dog.

"It's really exciting to welcome the children back - once again - and let's hope it's for the last time," she said.

"We opened in June last year and again fully in September and we were really disappointed when we had to close again after all the work we had put in.

"Let's hope with the speed the Government is doing the roadmap we will be able to stay open this time.

"School is where the children need to be. My teachers can now be in school interacting with the children. It's what they went into teaching for. For the last eight weeks they have been teaching from home in their living rooms.

Back to school - Melanie Tait of Skegness with her children Emily Moses, 4, and Ruby Moses, 8.

"We have learned a lot over the past year - some of the practices we have brought in we will keep doing - but I couldn't have done any of it without the support of my brilliant team.

"One of things I will remember most is seeing the faces of the children skipping into school, so happy to be back."

The newest member of Team Richmond is a six-month-old Cockapoo puppy - who will be the school's therapy dog.

Currently named 'Stevie' by her staff foster parents, one of the important tasks facing pupils on their first day back was to decide on her forever name.

Glad to be back: Sarah Collier of Skegness with Albie Collier, 8

The school was able to pay a donation for the dog and avoid the astronomical prices dogs are fetching since lockdown because she is so 'special'.

"At the moment she's not trained but she's six months old and is just learning the ropes," said deputy head RickI Danks

"She'll be working with children over the next few months to relieve the anxiety we know a lot of them will have.

"She was born blind so she is very special but we are sure she will fit in very well."

Ready for school: Anna Bradbrook with Thomas Bradbrook 9

Pupils were welcomed back into zones set up the last time children returned to school after lockdown back in June last year, with social distancing markers in the playground.

In school children stay with their own class bubbles and there are staggered start times and staggered playtimes.

"We had a really high uptake on homeschooling - a 95 per cent engagement - and have been delivering school meals throughout the pandemic," said Mr Danks.

"Our parents have been brilliant at supporting children at home and I'm sure they are ready for them to come back and we are ready to welcome them."

One family excited to be back were Allison Smith and children Torin, 11, and Anaiya Facey, aged eight.

"It's been a long time but the school has been really supportive and have done some fantastic online lessons.

Headteacher Mrs Caroline Wellsted welcoming Year 4 pupils (from left) Isla Graham, Rudi Thompson, Amy Andrews and Oscar Shuard.

"We've had a good routine, we've got through it - and I think the children have coped really well."

Mum Fran Worthington, who is also a teacher at the school, was glad to see all the pupils returning, especially for her son, William, aged seven.

"The last few months have been surreal but we have tried to make the lessons fun and create a happy atmosphere in school.

"The children who have been here during lockdown are very excited today because they have been missing the other pupils."

William said: "I am really excited to see my friends and play football with them."

At the area's secondary schools students had the additional experience of Covid-19 rapid testing before starting lessons in class.

A spokesperson for the David Ross Education Trust - which runs Skegness Grammar School, King Edward V Academy in Spilsby as well as several other primary schools in the area - said: “Everyone at our schools is so excited to welcome all our pupils back from Monday. We are so proud of how they have taken to remote learning, and the maturity with which they have continued to work hard, but nothing compares to having them in front of us in the classroom.

“We have taken extensive preparations to safeguard the school sites and ensure the risk of transmission is as low as it can be. We know that school life will be different with the new safeguards in place, but it means that we can continue to offer our pupils the best education possible while keeping everyone safe, happy, and eager to learn.”

Skegness Grammar School student Theo Griffiths, who has written articles for the Skegness Standard as part of his Duke of Edinburgh Award, took his Covid-19 test on Friday.

"It was uncomfortable but I was completely fine with doing it, " he said. "It was lovely to be back and see everyone.

"Most people did prefer the freedom of home learning, though."

Megan Holmes, who is in Year 10 at Skegness Grammar School,said: "It was really good to be back. I guess, I missed everyone."

Joshua Garnham said: "I enjoyed home learning more, but it was nice to be back and see everyone."

Deputy Head Ricki Danks with the new school dog.