The reality of returning to school “The announcement that children were able to come back to school was one of the best pieces of news that Boris has given us all year! Having said that, the return to bubbles, 1 metre distancing and rows of tables have made it difficult. But we are readjusting to our new normal.” Teacher at a WLZ school This quote sums up my return to school – the excitement of seeing the children face to face again conflicting with concerns about how to keep the school community safe. As Link Workers, we are now surprisingly used to seeing the children we work with on screens. Our role has flexed over the past year and has seen us helping young people with technology and online support, and sending games, craft kits and books to their homes to keep them active and engaged. However, there is nothing like seeing the children in person and spending time with them, so when schools opened, Link Workers, school staff, children and parents were eager to have the school full again, but also apprehensive and conscious of all the rules we need to follow. “My son was anxious about starting back at school, he was worried about all the changes and new rules, about getting ill and being safe.” WLZ parent Vats of hand gel in every room, keeping distant from friends and peers in other classes, school staff teaching and supporting children while wearing facemasks, the list goes on. This is far from normal. For children, this is a lot to take on and apply, especially after 3 months of homeschooling. As a Link Worker, we also work across the school and year groups – making keeping in ‘bubbles’ challenging. When a child comes for a session, we are a friendly, supportive face, but when you are wearing a facemask, this is slightly more difficult to achieve! We use resources to engage and involve children, but the process of needing to clean these after each use does take some of the joy away! There are many challenges in schools at the moment, but when you see children interacting in groups, faces smiling when they have understood, and the shouts of enjoyment from the playground it’s always an instant reminder that it is all worth it! Sarah Walsh, Link Worker In the first 3 weeks that children were back in school: 261 specialist support sessions were delivered by our partners and Link Workers; Link Workers made 7,111 engagements* with young people and their families. *An engagement is a face to face interaction, text, phone or video call.