As schools across the U.K. return to on-site teaching and learning, ACS International Schools' parents, teachers, and students share their thoughts and feelings on the return to the classroom.
ACS, which has three U.K. campuses in Egham, Cobham and Hillingdon and offers an international education to students aged 2–18, has continued to provide face-to-face provision for the children of essential workers throughout the national lockdown and has now established a rigorous COVID-19 safe learning programme. ACS welcomes back its school community with comprehensive safety measures in place, supported by a mass testing programme as recommended by the government.
ACS's Lower School students are excited to be back seeing their friends and teachers and playing in the classroom, with comments including:
"I’m excited to see my friends. I’m excited to see Ms. Poonam and her teaching us. I miss playing in the playground and being in the classroom. I miss almost everything about school."
— Reynard, ACS Egham Lower School student
Older students across ACS schools are equally keen to make the most of on-campus learning and its benefits for overall wellbeing:
"I really missed my friends and the whole school environment during lockdown. I am excited for different activities in lessons that we weren’t able to do over Zoom, meeting new people and socialising with friends that I haven’t seen in a while. I did enjoy distance learning but I think being back will improve my schooling experience a lot, including my grades and my mental and physical health."
— ACS Egham High School student
"I'm looking forward to being surrounded by friends on a daily basis and having class discussions in an actual classroom environment"
— ACS Cobham High School student
“I missed being able to speak face-to-face with friends and not having to rely on calling them or texting them. I am excited to be back in a class with real people around me and being able to go from class to class which is a good improvement from being confined to only my house.”
— ACS Hillingdon High School student
Teachers also welcome the return to face-to-face learning, with feedback including:
“COVID-19 certainly gave us a new story to tell the next generation! Coming back to school brings a mix of feelings; excitement, joy, fear, hope, but also responsibility to make the remaining school time great and positive. My focus is on connecting with my students, providing them with a space where we can talk, share feelings, where my students can be just themselves and ‘unmuted’. I really missed seeing students stopping by during breaks or chatting to them during lunch duty.”
— Dr Karolina Hammer, IB Mathematics Teacher, ACS Cobham
"It is so brilliant to be back to the smiles, the laughter, chatter and mostly being amongst friends again."
— Jeremy Lewis, Head of School, ACS Egham
"The best part about the return to school is seeing children active and energetic, running around on the sports pitches rather than cooped up in their houses. Hearing children’s voices in the corridors and the joyful expression on parents’ faces as they deliver their children in the morning and realise they are someone else’s responsibility for the day!"
— Martin Hall, Head of School, ACS Hillingdon
"The difference between remote learning and face-to-face learning is like watching or playing football. The passion and enthusiasm are still there but it is nothing compared to the team spirit and collaboration that happens on the pitch. I am so glad to have my team back!”
— Elhussein Elsharif, Middle School Teacher of Mathematics, ACS Cobham
While the majority of ACS students will return to campus learning, a full programme of distance learning will continue to be provided for students who are not able to return to school or are in quarantine and self-isolating. The smooth transition ACS has provided from in-person teaching to online learning, and now back again, has sparked positive feedback from a range of parents across its three schools, with comments including:
"I have to commend the school for their excellent execution in getting children back to school this week. The teachers provided timely information, the staff have offered support at all hours and the system of drop off and pick up worked very well considering the number of people to get through. I am so grateful to be a part of this school and I look forward to when I can meet teachers and staff in person. My kids had a brilliant first day."
— ACS Hillingdon parent
"The school has done a fantastic job to orchestrate a safe return to the class. All of the staff and volunteers should be commended for their efforts."
— ACS Hillingdon parent
Eddy Schlachter, Health and Safety Manager, ACS International Schools, comments: "Working alongside our community of parents and students, teachers, facilities staff and experts in the field, we have completed a comprehensive risk assessment that will help to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our community. ACS staff have truly gone above and beyond to ensure all measures are in place and we are using industry best-practice for COVID-19 security in every aspect of school life. As we welcome students back to on-campus learning, we are confident and ready to inspire our students, providing a rich educational experience for all students for the remainder of the school year."
ACS's robust control systems that are in place to minimise risk and ensure the safety of all students and employees who are learning and working on campus are shared in detail here: https://www.acs-schools.com/safe-learning