While most of our schools in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have remained open throughout for vulnerable children and those of keyworkers, the majority of our school-aged children have not set foot in a classroom since schools went into lockdown on March 20.
Schools, much like the rest of us, had never faced the situation before, but were quick to react with many focussing their attention on home learning through virtual teaching sessions and online materials – ensuring children could continue to learn and develop even if not in a formal classroom setting.
In the months that followed we saw our schools and parents stepping up to the challenges faced across the country by the spread of the coronavirus – with many of our schools providing meals for vulnerable members of their communities, or using their materials and expertise to produce thousands of pieces of PPE for frontline workers. Parents too stepped into the role of educators, providing home-learning for their children and making it part of their daily lives.
As the virus spread, school leaders had to go back to square one to reassess how their buildings operated and even how they taught, before planning how to adapt to ensure children could return one day to a safe and welcoming space.
Having worked through detailed risk assessments and closely monitored the local situation throughout the lockdown period, schools today are able to open their gates and welcome back the pupils they have ‘missed dearly’.
Jonathan Lewis, Director of Education at Cambridgeshire County and Peterborough City Council, said: “The start of every school year is a milestone for every child, every parent and every teacher involved, but there is no doubt this year in particular is of great significance
“This start of term is one that will be remembered for a very long time. I have said it many times before but am not afraid to say it again - I am proud and humbled by the superhuman efforts of everyone involved in our education system over the last five months
“The way everyone has stuck by one another, shared ideas and resources, and just helped keep the energy levels and effort up has been incredible. I also want to thank our parents and young people again for their professionalism, support and dedication to keeping learning alive, in some particularly difficult circumstances. This will have paid off and it will make the transition back to formal education a lot easier than it could have been.”
Councillor Simon Bywater, Chairman of the Children and Young People Committee for Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “It has been said many times that this is a year like no other, and this has certainly been the case when we consider the world of education
“I’m immensely proud of the way our young people have adapted. When they return to school, they will find that things look a little different and their school day won’t quite be the same as they are used to, but I know they will approach this with maturity and resilience. I wish them the best. I would encourage young people and parents to keep an open dialogue with your school, and feel free to speak to them if you do have any concerns at any point.”
Councillor Lynne Ayres, Cabinet Member for Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education, Skills and the University, said: “I am so pleased to be in a position where we can welcome all our children back to school. It brings me great joy each year to think about our young people progressing through the next stage of their academic journey, but this year will be one that lives long in the memory. Our schools and colleges have put in every effort to make sure they are safe, and I want our children to enjoy the year ahead. I send them every best wish.”