British Forces School In Sennelager To Welcome Pupils Back

Germany's Attenborough School has seen no students in its classrooms since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A school in Germany which caters for 70 military children will reopen on Thursday.

Sennelager's Attenborough School is one of the facilities in Germany, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Belgium and Brunei which will open its doors again as coronavirus lockdown measures are eased.

The return to the classroom will be phased in and it will follow a unique combination of both British and German government health and safety guidance.

"It’s going to look slightly different [and] it’s going to feel slightly different, but we will work with the children and help them," headteacher Andy Chapman said.

It will not be compulsory to return to school this term, but all six to 11-year-olds will be allowed to go back to their classrooms.

They will be rotating classes for the oldest four times a week and for the youngest once a week.

Attenborough School will observe both Britsh and German rules, prioritising whichever one is tougher on specific matters.

"Social distancing of 1.5 metres is the local guidance, however, the UK guidance is two metres, so it’s just meant small changes in our planning, small changes in preparing our classrooms, alterations to the way we move around the school," Mr Chapman said.

Should the children or staff be unable to respect the two-metre distancing because of technical reasons, such as when moving from one classroom to another or walking down the hall for lunch, children and teacher will be asked to "wear face coverings when the two metres [rule] cannot be guaranteed", he added.

While the school aims to minimise the use of face masks, safety remains paramount.

"Our class sizes are considerably smaller than the UK’s, which allows us to plan the classroom environments, create the bubbles as the UK has been talking about so that’s reassured some parents," he said.

"It’s just making sure that we have the right risk assessments in place, everybody knows the routines, everybody knows the expectations and that will help us to reduce the risks of increasing any transmission."

The physical facility may have been closed to students, but lessons have continued online.

"At the beginning, I was excited about it, but it was all different and now I just think I’ve kind of got used to it," said one of the pupils.

Teaching online has presented some challenges for many teachers. 

Ed Parkinson had to learn skills normally associated with TV presenters, but the virtual classes have proved to be popular.

"We’re already thinking that once we eventually get back to school we can try and use this to sort of set up links with other schools that are within our forces network, which would be excellent," Mr Parkinson said.

"It’s not the same as interacting with your classmates in the classroom and going out and playing with your mates, you know, playtime and stuff but like you said a new normal," Warrant Officer Class 2 Keith Stubbs, who is a parent, said.

"I think they’re getting used to it now and embracing the media," he added.