VIOLET Spruce will have her eyes on the prize on her first day back in the classroom.
"She'll be really excited to be able to play on the monkey bars in the playground," Violet's mum Katie said, about her daughter's return to year one at St Paul's Primary School, Gateshead.
"We've had many conversations over lockdown of 'We need to go and find somewhere where they've got monkey bars Mum, because I just haven't had the chance to practice on the monkey bars like I did every day at school'."
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The government confirmed on Thursday schools will begin their staggered return to face-to-face learning one week earlier than planned, thanks to the state's strong vaccination rates.
Kindergarten, year one and year 12 will return from October 18, while years two, six and 11 will return from October 25. Other year groups will return from November 1.
Mrs Spruce said she and her daughter, 7, had "mixed feelings" about returning.
"Home learning has been quite challenging this time around compared to last year," she said.
"I really have been looking forward to that return to that normal routine and the pressure taken off me to be the person who is responsible for her learning."
Mrs Spruce has been juggling remote learning with Violet, who has autism, with caring for her three-year-old son Reuben, who hasn't been able to attend preschool, and helping her husband with their pet business.
"Violet's missing her friends and teacher a lot but she's also a highly anxious child, so she's been a bit resistant to the idea of having to return to school at all."
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She said this was tied to adapting to changes in routine and absorbing community concern about COVID-19.
"But funnily enough when we had the conversation about the thought that school might go back a week early, she seemed to take that in her stride quite well and better than I expected her to.
"She's cautiously optimistic, I would say, about going back to school. I said to her we might consider for the first couple of weeks of term actually sending her back one day a week, just to help her start to ease back into that routine."
Mrs Spruce said the school was "absolutely incredible" and ensured families knew they didn't have to be their child's teacher or meet unrealistic expectations.
"We very quickly during home learning this time around came to a realisation that it wasn't as important to get everything done as it was to have a peaceful household... we just took it day by day and got through it in the end."
The NSW Teachers Federation said challenges with the earlier return included not knowing how many staff will be double vaccinated by the new dates and extra pressure on teachers pivoting between face-to-face and remote learning.
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