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Schools across Sudbury area praise resilience of pupils and staff following start of phased return to classroom education

Youngsters have made the first step towards resuming classroom education this week – but schools acknowledge it will be some time before things return to normal.

Primary schools in Suffolk welcomed back select year groups beginning on Monday, having worked throughout May to implement safety measures after the Government’s announcement that it would begin easing restrictions nationwide.

Despite the unprecedented period of challenges, pupils have been widely praised for their resilience and work ethic during this time.

Education stock (35982843)
Education stock (35982843)

In Sudbury, Tudor Primary School reopened to reception, Year 1 and Year 6 classes of less than nine children and two members of staff each, with staggered start and finish times, a one-way system around the school building and distancing and sanitisation measures in effect.

Headteacher Liz Campbell said pupils had been “such a joy” to work with during lockdown, working via an online platform, while staff have operated on a rota to run sessions for children of key workers.

“We understand how difficult a decision it is for families to send their children back to school, and we will have many children continue to work from home,” she told the Free Press.

“Therefore, we will be maintaining the online provision and teachers will continue to post work each day and teachers will respond. It is essential that we keep the excellent work going on at home.

“Throughout all of this, the main concern for us is the safety of our precious children and our staff.

“We have not run school before like this and, as with all new things, we feel apprehensive, but we’re confident that our measures are following the guidance and going even further than that.”

St Gregory Primary School has taken a gradual approach, with reception children together four days a week, two Year 1 groups running two days a week, and three Year 6 groups going four days a week.

Utilising staggered start times, the school confirmed that rooms and resources are extensively cleaned after each use, while the Sudbury Community Wardens have placed markings on pathways to help maintain social distancing.

Headteacher Daniel Woodrow said: “I think that all of our Sudbury schools have done a fantastic job in responding to the challenges presented by the pandemic.

“They have planned for home learning, they have cared for the children of key workers and vulnerable children, they have provided food and support where it is needed and they have been creative, innovative and inspirational, all while having to take care of their own families too.

“They will all have been working especially hard to prepare for reopening too and the safety of the children will have been the driving force in everything that they have done.

“Here at St Greg’s, we have really appreciated the support of our parents and carers. The way they have responded to the changes in their children’s education and taken up the home-learning mantle has been magnificent.

“I have always felt honoured to be part of this incredible school community, and never more so than in the last few weeks and months.”

The Unity Schools Partnership has hailed the hard work across its network of schools in achieving a safe return for staff and pupils this week.

The trust oversees more than a dozen primary schools, including Glemsford Primary Academy, which reported a successful first day on Monday, with parents providing positive feedback to teachers.

Headteacher Ben Jeffery said: “The first day went brilliant. Everyone was feeling nervous but, thanks to all the hard work and preparation, things went really smoothly.

“Parents were very understanding and several sent lovely supportive messages saying how staff really put their minds at ease.

“A particular highlight was seeing the smiles on children’s faces at the end of the day, when they told their parents what a great day they’d had.

“Staff have been amazing. They have worked tirelessly and have always been positive and looked for solutions. They have gone above and beyond over the past three months and I am incredibly proud of them.”

Another member of the partnership, Woodhall Primary School in Sudbury, also made a partial reopening to specific year groups this week, after producing a detailed video on YouTube, to demonstrate the precautions being taken to make the school safe.

Unity Schools chief executive Tim Coulson said: “The video from Woodhall is a great way to reassure parents and highlight all the work school staff have done to get everything ready.

“We have 16 primary schools within our trust and they have all been working closely together to adopt a largely consistent set of plans, while tailoring them in the best way to support students and staff within their own environments.

“We have been hugely impressed with the resilience and adaptability of all our students. They have approached home learning with typical endeavour, and we would like to thank them and their families.

“Alongside that, our staff have worked incredibly hard in a short space of time to ensure our schools are ready – they have all been a credit to their profession.”

Meanwhile, secondary schools in the area are also planning a phased return, although most year groups continue to work from home.

Ormiston Sudbury Academy began on-site sessions for Year 12 students yesterday, and will start classes for Year 10 pupils tomorrow, operating in small groups and following distancing guidelines.

Headteacher Caroline Wilson: “Students have responded very positively to the expectations of lockdown.

“They have completed the work set by our committed staff to a high standard, kept in contact and conducted themselves in a measured and resilient manner.”

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