All children and young people will return to school and college next Monday. It’s the welcome first step in easing this lockdown.
If you’re a parent, guardian or carer who’s juggled home-schooling with work, or even a grandparent who’s stepped in for childcare duty, you might have had 8th March pencilled-in for some time and can’t wait to crack open a bottle of wine (other vices are available) to mark this step towards normality, and maybe a little more peace and quiet around the house.
This being said, no one should overlook the heroic efforts of teachers to deliver virtual remote learning, alongside in-person teaching of the children of critical workers too – something that has been the case throughout the pandemic.
I would like to thank you all for what you have done.
Schools have never been “shut” at any time. I always feel frustrated when I read facetious comments and emails stating otherwise, mistakenly hinting that burdened teachers have somehow “had it easy this year”.
I’ve spoken with some of East Devon headteachers and staff over the past few weeks, including heads Andrew Davis at Exmouth Community College and John Laramy at Exeter College who both run some of the largest colleges in the whole country. They take several thousand East Devon students through their doors each day. The successful return of more learners to face-to-face education is being supported by a range of measures including twice-weekly testing of secondary school and college pupils.
Personally, I don’t want to see children wearing masks in school but I understand this is a decision left up to schools and their individual circumstances for the time being. Already, the vaccine rollout means 1 in every 3 people of all ages in East Devon has been vaccinated and have that protection against the virus.
Mr Davis and Mr Laramy – as with all heads in East Devon – have an unrelenting focus on their students’ mental health and wellbeing. Providing support for those who are understandably struggling from the lack of regular social contact with their peers is all the more difficult when done virtually. It’s hard to pick up signs that a pupil is finding things really tough when speaking over the phone or through a screen for that small window of time.
If you’re a pupil or a student, I really hope you’re looking forward to going back. Mock exams and assessments left aside (which, trust me, I hated), seeing classmates and friends is the best bit of your school years. These memories will be with you when you go on to further education, university, or the world of work.
This column first appeared in the Exmouth Journal on Wednesday 3rd March 2021 and in the Sidmouth Herald and Midweek Herald later in the week.