Secondary schools welcome back more pupils

SECONDARY schools across East Sussex are welcoming back more students with a range of measures in place to ensure they can come back to the classroom safely.

Huge efforts are also continuing behind the scenes to keep remote learning going during the pandemic.

The Government closed all schools in March to stem the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus, with the exception of children considered vulnerable and those with keyworker parents.

Signage, two metre markings, one-way systems, social distancing in classrooms, smaller class groups and limiting the number of pupils on site at one time are just some of the measures schools are taking to reinstate face-to-face learning for pupils in year 10 and 12.

But while lockdown has kept many pupils away from school, there has been no let-up in their learning or the innovative way schools have kept their school communities together and their pupils engaged.

Cllr Bob Standley, East Sussex County Council’s lead member for education, said: “I have been amazed by how schools across the county have responded to these unprecedented challenges. Their dedication and commitment to their students has been fantastic.”

He said it was right that students in Years 10 and 12 should be prioritised adding:  “This is not business as normal, but it is providing these year groups with a face-to-face contact with their teachers to support their distance learning. These are pupils going into their final year for GCSE and A-Level exams and it’s so important we help them keep up the momentum with their learning.”

At Peacehaven Community School, Head of School, Darren Warner- Swann said: “The school now looks very different with signage, two-metre feet marks and chevrons indicating our new one way system to ensure students maintain social distancing rules.”

With hand sanitising stations and with staggered school start times, he said, it certainly was not “business as usual”. But he added: “It does give us some much awaited face-to-face time with students in small groups or bubbles. And one thing remains the same and that is that all the staff have been really looking forward to seeing the students back.”

It’s a similar story of new signage, one-way systems and social distancing at Uplands Community College in Wadhurst.

Principal Justine Mountford said: “I am so proud of all the staff who have worked so very hard, not just to get the school set up for pupils to come back safely, but also how they have kept the school operating for the children of key workers, and delivered such effective remote learning. It has been a huge task.

“I know how excited the staff have been to see the students again, and pupils are obviously so pleased to be able to ask their teachers questions face-to-face and to know they’re on the right track.”

While secondary schools are welcoming back a limited number of students, much of secondary learning continues to be done virtually.

Schools across the county have been getting innovative in the way they have engaged with pupils and their families. It’s not possible to detail everything that all schools have been doing, but here are a couple of examples:

At Kings Academy Ringmer they have given pupils a recommended daily schedule that includes PE with Joe Wicks, lessons and school work set through Google Classroom, breaks, creative time and outdoor activities.

The school has given pupils and parents tips on home learning, and has been encouraging students to be involved in a range of remote activities including Couch to 5K, Eco corner projects, Stop Motion Animation film projects, Yoga for teenagers, learning origami, baking, and writing short stories.

Meanwhile at Seahaven Academy in Newhaven, pupils have got involved in orienteering, making pinhole cameras and a “Making a difference from home” project in which they have been carrying out acts of kindness, having fun and getting creative.

They have been developing their skills and their interests in an “Aspire” programme, taking part in “Neuro Ninja” sessions to promote well-being, as well as taking photos and writing poems about Spring ready for a “Display of Hope” once the school building returns to normal.

And on top of all that, staff have been in school two days a week making PPE visors for local community groups – more than 800 have been made and distributed.

Cllr Standley said: “I want to thank everyone involved in this immense effort across the county to continue the learning and education of our young people. The range of projects and initiatives schools have come up with to encourage, motivate and involve their students and their families has been staggering.”