Ten days ago, on Monday 18 May, the British International School of Ljubljana (BISL) reopened its doors, moving back to the physical classroom from online learning, and now, ahead of the state schools in Slovenia – which remain on limited schedules – is already offering classes to all of its pupils.
A teacher and students
The staggered approach to reopening saw the Early Years and Years 1 and 10 to 13 return first, with priority thus given to those children who are still learning what school is all about, and older pupils. Years 2, 3 and 9 returned to the premises of the BISL a few days later, with online lessons continuing for others. And this week, starting Monday 25 May, the remaining pupils returned to see their friends and teachers.
Of course, things are not the same as before the lockdown, and safety is the goal around which everything is organised. Classes have thus been split into smaller groups – no more than 10 for the youngest, and no more than 15 for others – and there’s liberal use of sanitisers and masks (more on those below).
In adopting new measures the BISL isn’t acting alone, as its membership of the Orbital Education Group means that the school has been able to share the experiences and best practices of others around the world. A key part of the new system is the modelling of appropriate behaviours by teachers, staff and parents, with regard to hand and cough hygiene, the use of masks and distancing. The latter includes more space between desks, no assemblies, and the modification of group activities. Fortunately the return to school has coincided with fine weather, making outdoor learning possible.
With regard to masks, the school is currently operating on the following regime, although both teachers and students are allowed to wear masks at all times if they prefer, and the full details of the reopening guidance can be found here.
Teachers also ensure that classroom doors will be kept open and classrooms are well ventilated regularly. Before being permitted back to school the parents of each pupil had to sign a form declaring their child had not shown any symptoms of covid-19 in the previous 14 days, not been in contact with such a person, and that they would agree to keep their child from school these symptoms appear.
How have the first days back at school been?
Paul Walton, the principal of BISL, notes that the mood on the first day was delightful, being able to see friends and colleagues once again, along with a feeling of strangeness at the new situation. To ease the community back, care was thus taken to ensure the social aspects of school and the benefits they provide were emphasised, since these were what everyone had been missing most.
Paul Walton and his Senior Leadership Team
And what advice does Mr Walton offer to other schools? He gives the following five tips:
- Student wellbeing and safety should come first in every decision.
- Include staff in the consultation process.
- Encourage fun and exciting learning opportunities for all students with an enhanced timetable of lessons and blended learning.
- Communicate out early the plan to return and amend it as and when needed, including updates after the reopening.
- Create a solid checking process to ensure that everything you said you will do has been done.
If you’d like to learn more about how the British International School of Ljubljana is handling the return to work, or how to enrol your child for the next academic year, then visit the website here.