Schools rise to the education challenge following third national lockdown

All primary and secondary schools were forced to close on January 5.

All primary and secondary schools were forced to close to the majority of students on January 5. - Credit: Pixabay

Schools across the county have worked relentlessly to curb any disruption to children’s learning as the UK faces its third national lockdown. 

All schools were forced to close to the majority of students on January 5 before England went into lockdown to try to curb the rapid spread of coronavirus on January 6.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said schools will need to offer remote learning until at least mid-February.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said schools will need to offer remote learning until at least mid-February. - Credit: Pixabay

Only vulnerable pupils, children of key workers and pupils without access to laptops are allowed to attend schools for face-to-face teaching. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said schools will need to offer remote learning until at least mid-February and added it is 'not possible or fair' for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal.

North Somerset Council's executive member for children's services and lifelong learning, Catherine Gibbons, says the authority is committed to giving support, help and advice to those who work with and look after children of all ages at this ‘worrying time’.  

Cllr Catherine Gibbons.

Cllr Catherine Gibbons. - Credit: Archant

Cllr Gibbons said: “My heart goes out to all the students across North Somerset who were looking forward to returning to school or college last week and to the families who are now facing the demands of juggling work life and home-schooling. 

“However, it’s very clear, based on our current rates of infection, that this is the right thing to do now. The sooner we can bring infection rates down and vaccinate more vulnerable people in our community, the sooner students will be able to return to face-to-face learning. 

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“This past year has been very disruptive to children’s learning, but our schools' staff have worked incredibly hard to keep things going as best as possible remotely while also supporting vulnerable and key worker children. They deserve our utmost respect and gratitude. 

“I was pleased to hear the Government free school meal provision will continue during lockdown and that more devices will be made available to support online learning. No child should go hungry or be without access to learning.” 

The Priory Learning Trust, which oversees schools including Priory and Worle secondary schools, says it is continuing to use its WONDE voucher system to provide free school meals to families, as well as handing out another 334 laptops to students through the DfE laptop scheme.  

CEO of The Priory Learning Trust, Neville Coles.

CEO of The Priory Learning Trust, Neville Coles. - Credit: Shane Dean

Chief executive of the trust, Neville Coles, said: “Our principals and all staff will check regularly on students’ progress and make regular pastoral call to families. We are especially encouraging all families and parents who are finding the lockdown difficult to contact us directly and we will support on an individual basis.” 

Mr Coles said families of children attending schools in the trust have been ‘very supportive’ of the challenges faced by teaching staff who provide daily online home learning activities and he hopes to get back to normal education ‘as soon as we can’. 

The trust will also have coronavirus testing up-and-running in its three secondaries schools later this month. 

The Cabot Learning Federation, which oversees Weston academies including Broadoak, Herons’ Moor, Haywood Village and Hans Price, had schools open to permitted groups of youngsters and remote learning up-and-running on January 5. 

Pupils pictured with Herons' Moor Principle Julie Fox and the CEO of the Cabot Learning Federation, Steve Taylor, in 2019.

Pupils pictured with Herons' Moor Principle Julie Fox and the CEO of the Cabot Learning Federation, Steve Taylor, in 2019. - Credit: Archant

Chief executive Steve Taylor said that like other schools, its places of learning have ‘responded brilliantly’ to the challenge.  

Mr Taylor said: “We have regular contact with parents and carers, either individually on the phone or group parent meetings on Microsoft Teams on Zoom, which keeps our staff up-to-date with how pupils and families are coping through lockdown.

"Everything about the remote learning, from the systems we use to the design and content of the learning, has moved on considerably from the first lockdown in the spring.  

“We have set up a voucher scheme for pupils and many parents have been in touch to remark on how well they are being supported. 

“I’d like to thank all parents and carers for their support and understanding. Breaking the chains of transmission by minimising the number of people on site is central to the national effort to bring the virus under control.  

“We still believe, of course, that school is the best place for children and look forward to having everyone back in school in the near future.” 

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