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Back to School: Twelve-year-old Jagoda Talks Returning to Education During a Pandemic

13 October 20 words: Jagoda Brown-Polanowska
illustrations: Carmel Ward

With all the talk of politicians, parents and teachers, it’s easy to forget those most affected by the decision to reopen schools after lockdown: the students. Twelve-year-old Jagoda Brown-Polanowska lets us know what returning to school in the midst of a global pandemic is really like...

I have now started school again after lockdown. Most other children are happy to go back to school but I am not one of them. Generally I’m not someone who likes school, I never was. I enjoy not having to wake up early, catch two buses every morning and wear a school uniform. I prefer teachers not telling you to stop talking or sit up straight, and being able to eat or go to the toilet when I want to. It was fun for the first week at school because I was seeing my friends after a long break and the teachers weren’t setting much homework. But things have changed now. One tiny part of me wants us to go back to home schooling but another part doesn’t. 

Enough talking about school, I wanted to tell you a bit about my holidays... I went to Poland. Luckily we weren't one of those people who had to cancel their holiday due to the coronavirus restrictions. First we drove by car to Harwich and then got on the ferry. It wasn’t really that different than before COVID – although the soft play area was closed and you weren’t allowed to walk around the shops. The next day we got off the ferry and drove through the continent. After a long drive we arrived at my grandma’s in the middle of the Polish countryside. 

It was great fun to be at my grandma’s, after being ‘locked down’ in Nottingham I was free to run around. Luckily for me, there was no quarantine there. I could go to the local woods, to my friends’ houses and play in their garden and pool or go to the shops and the post office – although I still had to wear a face mask. There were also loads of animals like cows, chickens, ducks, swifts, and many cats and dogs living on the farms which I enjoyed being around.

Most importantly there was a proper summer – unlike in England. It was always over thirty degrees with hardly any rain. I often would go to the local lake that was only ten minutes away by bike, and the sea was half an hour away by car. 

I love climbing, so my mum took me to a place where they had ropes, planks of wood and other obstacles in the crown of pine trees. I don’t want to sound full of myself but I’m good at climbing, so I went on the hardest obstacle that some grown-ups and older teenagers couldn’t do. 

I am glad that the days at school are shorter. Maybe they could stay shorter forever

After I came back to Nottingham I had to go back to school, which felt very weird. We are starting at our usual time but finishing earlier to limit the contact with other children. All years have been divided into three bubbles, with each bubble starting and finishing their day at different times. I’m very glad I finish earlier and my day is shorter. My mum says that all my lessons must be shorter too, but it doesn’t feel like it to me. 

Travelling on the bus is different too. Before I used to catch the school bus with children from all the years but now we do not travel together. I prefer to use the public bus now anyway as it means I don’t have to wait around. The first week was quite hard because my mum and I had to learn a new bus routine. On the first day we went to the L12 bus stop but the bus never came, so we had to rush and catch a different one. 

I find it quite annoying to have to wear your mask almost all the time and it’s quite uncomfortable. When my friends and I were playing dob at break it was very hard to run in masks – it’s only while eating food at lunch we can take them off. We had water fountains before but now they are all turned off and plastic bags are put over them so no one can drink out of them. 

Everything is weird now at school, on the buses, in the shops and everywhere really, but one thing I am glad about is that the days at school are shorter. Maybe they could stay shorter forever. 

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