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WATCH: Secondary school pupils in Dundee delighted to return to school after months of remote learning

There was cause for celebration in Dundee as many secondary school pupils returned to school for the first time since December.

Junior pupils in S1-S3 were delighted to set foot in the classroom again after several months away.

St Paul’s RC Academy has introduced a number of safety mitigations to make the phased return possible.

Head girl Melissa Phillips works on her art portfolio following the phased return to school.

Senior pupils have been offered two and a half hours each day in order to complete essential coursework, while younger students will have one half day each week until the Easter holidays.

Head teacher Teresa Little said making sure pupils were coping with the pandemic was a key focus of reopening.

She said: “The seniors we are really needing to push on and make sure they’re prepared for any assessments they’ve got coming up.

“For the younger ones, the next three weeks the focus is on health and wellbeing and helping them to feel confident about where they are in their learning and to worry about the future because we’ve got that in hand.

Head teacher Teresa Little.

“We just want them to feel secure at school, to feel safe and to feel confident.”

The toughest task facing the school is implementing two-metre physical distancing in corridors and classrooms, which means the number of pupils in the building at each time has been significantly reduced.

But the school, she said, is hoping to take positive lessons from remote learning to improve the way people learn, such as workload management and independent study skills.

It has been a tough year for S1 pupils, who have had very little time at their new secondary school since transitioning from primary.

First year pupil Kerra Duell.

Kerra Duell, 12, said she hopes to reconnect with her classmates following the phased return.

She said: “I’m most looking forward to seeing my friends and learning stuff that I’ve not already learned.”

Learning from home has added to the difficulties as many city pupils battled connectivity issues.

She added: “Working from home was sometimes stressful because either the WiFi would be playing up or the computer would be too slow.

“But at school it is a lot easier because you can get help from the teachers.”

Following the cancellation of exams in December, pupils in S4-S6 have been working hard to pull together coursework which can be assessed as an alternative to exams.

But that challenge became even tougher as schools closed to suppress the spread of Covid-19.

Head Boy Matthew Duncan.

Head boy Matthew Duncan said being back in the classroom will make the assessment process easier.

It had been difficult to ask questions or communicate with teachers during home-schooling, he said.

The 17-year-old said: “I’m so glad to be back for completing courses because it’s definitely not the same at home.

“Some teachers are better at online learning and they know what they’re doing and for other teachers this is their first time.

“Being back you can ask face-to-face questions that you might not be willing to pause the teacher on if you’re on a call because that interrupts the entire flow of it and there’s awkward silences.

“Most teachers have been really good at getting any doubts out of pupils’ heads. They have all been putting in 100%.”

Head girl Melissa Phillips.

Despite coping reasonably well with remote learning, head girl Melissa Phillips, 17, said she was relieved to be back at school.

“It’s very different from what it’s been like the last three or four months but it’s a big relief for everybody in getting back to class and be able to produce work and being able to chat to friends and socialise.

“I think that’s something that’s very important that we’ve all missed out on.”

WATCH: Back to school – Primary pupils’ excitement as they return to the classroom

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