Primary pupils in Stoke-on-Trent back Prime Minister’s plans to fully reopen schools

Children welcoming the Prime Minister to their school have praised their remote lessons – but can’t wait for everyone to get back to the classroom.

Boris Johnson visited St Mary’s CE Primary School, in Tunstall, today to see how they are preparing to welcome back all year groups next week.

During the current lockdown, around a fifth of the 513 pupils have been attending school as they are classed as vulnerable or from key worker families.

The others – from nursery to Year 6 – have been having daily Zoom lessons. For junior pupils, it has meant more than four hours of lessons a day.

Boris Johnson walks through the playground with headteacher Clare Morton and pupil Jonah Bradbury, who is head boy at St Mary’s CE Primary

Hirah Hussain has been learning remotely, although her duties as head girl meant she was in school today for the Prime Minister’s visit.

She reckons he chose to see their school because they have been doing more ‘live’ lessons online than many other primaries.

The 11-year-old, who lives in Newcastle, added: “I was surprised when I found out he was coming here. He was very nice and very kind to the younger children.”

Hirah believes it’s in children’s best interests to get back to school.

“It worries me that we’ve not being coming to school that often. You can’t have a proper school experience,” she added. “At home, if you have other family members there, they can disrupt you. At school, there’s also more of a set structure.”

Jonah Bradbury is also concerned about the learning many children have missed out on during the pandemic.

The 10-year-old, from Packmoor, said: “We’ve had too long off. There was the first lockdown, when children were off for months, then this lockdown.”

As his mum is a nurse, Jonah has been attending lessons at school most days. “It will feel weird with everybody back. I’ve got used to having just a few children around,” he said.

As head boy, he helped show the Prime Minister around the school.

Pupils Hirah Hussain and Jonah Bradbury with headteacher Clare Morton
Pupils Hirah Hussain and Jonah Bradbury with headteacher Clare Morton

Jonah said afterwards: “He came to visit because we are a very good school. There’s good learning and everything.”

Pupils also got to quiz their special guest about his own school days. Mr Johnson revealed his favourite subject at school was Latin.

Headteacher Clare Morton said: “He was very impressed, particularly with the behaviour of the children.”

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St Mary’s is now busy preparing for the return of all pupils on Monday next week.

The school has received £38,000 of catch-up funding from the Government and has invested a further £40,000 from its own budget.

Mrs Morton said: “We’ve bought extra laptops, employed more teachers and are having one-to-one tutoring after school from our own staff.

“Every child will be assessed when they get back to find out where the gaps are in their learning and what we need to do to plug the gaps. We will have one-to-one interviews with them.”

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