Schools excited for return to normality while facing rising Covid cases and self-isolation

Broadoak Academy principal, Kathleen Mcgillycuddy. 

Broadoak Academy principal, Kathleen Mcgillycuddy. - Credit: Cabot Learning Federation

Schools in North Somerset are looking forward to returning to a sense of normality in September after months of lockdowns, followed by increasing numbers of staff and pupils isolating. 

Many pupils have missed out on landmark occasions such as sports days, their last day of term, and proms due to isolation rules because Covid has prevented larger events from taking place. 

Broadoak Academy principal Kathleen McGillycuddy said: “We don’t have any year groups off but we do have bubbles within year seven, eight and nine off and it’s desperate for those young people because they were so excited about the end of term and the activities we had planned.  

“We’ve been hit over the past week by staff having to self-isolate, not because they are positive but because they’ve been pinged by track and trace and identified as a close contact. That’s been difficult this week, so we’ve had to double up some of classes, and set up online learning to try to keep education going. 

“Our vision for September is that we are returning to normal, but with ventilation and extra hygiene. Everyone is very excited about not being in bubbles, and moving around the school, and having the dining areas open to all pupils.” 

Schools in Worle have also been hit with a large number of cases. Last week, all pupils in years eight, nine and 10 at Worle Community School Academy (WCSA) were told to self-isolate, leaving only year seven students on site.  

More: Various year groups isolating following rising Covid cases in school.

Neville Coles

Neville Coles. - Credit: Shane Dean

Neville Coles, chief executive of the Priory Learning Trust, which includes Worle Community School Academy, Priory Community School Academy (PCSA) and The King Alfred School Academy, said: “It's been very difficult but the staff and students have been great.

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"We’ve had challenges in the last week due to Covid cases. Last week we only had year sevens in WCSA and one year group out at PCSA which was disruptive.      

“In September we’re going to have to set up testing centres in the secondary schools and children have to be tested twice. It will be really good to get back to some form of normality. A big thank you to all the parents, carers and staff.”

PLT and Broadoak Academy decided against holding proms to ensure the safety of pupils and the wider community. But staff worked hard to make sure students were able to celebrate landmark occasions with their friends. 

Ms McGillycuddy added: “Those rites of passage which are so important to young people, which make memories, have been missed. 

“The transition from year six to seven is huge. We made sure all year six pupils came in, in small bubbles, to see the school and meet the teachers. 

“When it became clear a prom wasn’t going to be possible, we put on a year 11 barbecue on the sports field, and organised leavers hoodies and games.

"We also booked a band for a surprise concert outside. They needed a sense of celebration and being together. 

“It’s been pretty dire for young people for the past year-and-a-half and they deserve something nice.” 

From August 16, students will no longer have to self-isolate if they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive. Instead, secondary schools will be asked to offer pupils two Covid tests at the beginning of the autumn term, as a one-off event. 

Covid has had a huge impact on education, and Ms McGillycuddy believes young people may need extra support over the coming years to recover. 

She added. “I do think we are going to begin to see, over the next year and beyond, some deeper impacts of the pandemic on young people - certainly their mental health and wellbeing, sense of self and what it means to be a young person.  

“The majority of young people have just been so determined - they’ve logged online and kept on keeping on. I’m immensely proud of the children in Weston. I think they have been tremendous throughout the past year-and-a-half.  

“I’ve heard so many stories of them helping in the community, with charities and looking after parents and siblings. They are cracking young humans.” 

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