When schools shut their doors in March due to Covid-19, it was hard to imagine that for many families, this was the end of their school year as they knew it.
Although teachers would continue to work hard to create, develop and share new learning resources for use at home, and parents would adapt to a new life juggling working from home with home schooling, the typical school year that children are used to had come to an end.
Senior academy pupils wouldn’t be able to sit exams; primary school leavers wouldn’t get the long-awaited primary seven trip and those in younger years would miss out on seeing their friends every day as they continued to learn lessons designed to support their growth and development.
Countesswells Primary School, made up of 34 children aged between 5 and 12, has been like all the other primary schools across the UK that were forced to close just weeks before the Easter holidays.
Now, as virtual classroom stops for summer, headteacher Paula Rough is ready to celebrate the achievements of the pupils at the school who have shown resilience throughout lockdown.
She said: “I am so proud of how our learners and their families have embraced this rapid change to their lives. It has been lovely to see them utilising their home environment and while continuing to learn they have been having fun.
“The local authority has been great at ensuring family have access to wifi and devices. It can be hard for families to juggle sharing devices with siblings, so we have delivered a few to our pupils to ensure they have access to the online learning. Luckily, broadband speeds throughout Countesswells are some of the best in the UK – so parents thankfully didn’t have to battle that obstacle on top of everything else!
“As well as supporting with equipment, Aberdeen City Council and Education Scotland also developed the ‘resilience alphabet’ which pupils have engaged positively with. It has given them the chance to stop and take stock of what has been happening around them and help them make connections to the emotions that they have been experiencing and how they can deal with these.”
Following on from classroom learning, Countesswells Primary continues to embrace the values that the growing town holds close, including health and wellness, biodiversity and looking after the environment, while promoting a real sense of community.
Mrs Rough said: “To try to continue our sense of togetherness we have recorded online assemblies each week which have celebrated and shared the learning that pupils have done.
“This also includes our Golden Book Awards that are issued each week at assembly for someone who has demonstrated one of our core values. Instead of stickers we have posted out ‘well done’ postcards to the pupils’ homes after the announcement at assembly each week.”
With the virtual school gates now closed for six weeks, pupils, parents and staff are now looking ahead to what will be an exciting second half of the year. Not only is it hoped that Countesswells Primary School, alongside all other Scottish schools, will reopen full-time with no physical distancing in August, but they will also be looking to the next stage of building for their new school.
With preview images already revealed the modern school will have provision for more than 400 pupils as well as around 60 nursery children.
Plans shared at the start of the year include a space for early years’ education, an all-weather pitch, parking area and two separate playgrounds as well as an outdoor classroom which will offer an innovative approach to teaching and learning.
Mrs Rough added: “The first part of the year has been a huge test for all involved at Countesswells Primary School. However, we’ve rallied together and come out stronger for it. I’m now looking forward to getting back to class after summer and catching up with all the pupils – as well as our new intake of primary ones.
“Together, and alongside parents, architects, planners and the local council, we can start moving plans along for the new school and the next landmark build for the community.”
An additional primary school and a new academy are also planned within the approved masterplan for Countesswells, which will eventually comprise 3,000 homes, along with healthcare facilities, local business units and shops, neighbourhood centres, green and civic spaces and extensive parkland.