Today, I had the pleasure of working with the amazing Year 6 children at George Street Primary School. Like most authors, it’s been a while since we’ve been able to safely go into schools, and I was obviously cautious about heading in. I had a conversation with the school in the days leading up and they were confident in their own measures and I felt safe doing so, so we went ahead. I thought I’d jot down a few observations for any other authors or schools considering physical visits.
Firstly, I couldn’t have felt more “protected”. The school have clearly done a great job of isolating their bubbles. They are a single form entry which makes this easier, but the only people I came anywhere near during the day were the reception staff and the class I was working with. Within the class it was easy for me to maintain a distance from the children.
Secondly, any fears about the children not being up for it after such a long break disappeared immediately. It was only their second week back and they were already engaged and excited and full of brilliant ideas.
There were, of course, adaptations to be made to my workshop. Under normal conditions, I’d have worked with most, if not all, of the year groups in 40-60 minute sessions. Working with only one class all day meant I needed to re-jig my session. This was actually a very nice experience as I really got to know the children over the day and they were able to invest in the whole process. It’s something that I’d definitely consider suggesting to schools even during normal times. The weather was also very kind so we did part of the session outdoors. Authors will definitely need to reformat some of their sessions if they are heading into schools to accommodate perfectly reasonable requests such as this.
As I said earlier, the whole session was managed well by the teacher and support staff. They knew what could and couldn’t be done, and were on-hand to let me know. One of the biggest changes to my usual repertoire was refraining from heading over and sitting down with the children to help them. Little things like remembering to isolate any dice I handed out (they’re now spending a week in my garage) and being more stringent with what happened to scrap paper etc were also things I hadn’t necessarily considered before the fact – but, once again, the brilliant staff were there to sort it all.
Physical visits won’t be something that all or many authors feel comfortable with yet, and I’ll be taking precautions such as keeping a wide-berth from people who are shielding for a couple of weeks. I also wouldn’t be comfortable booking more than one physical visit per fortnight at the moment, I think that level of cross-contamination via myself would be unjustified. But, with all things considered, it was a really lovely day and I was glad to be back in school.