ESW News 19 March 2021
This year we completed the testing of secondary pupils; around 10,000 tests in 9 days. I said last week how grateful and proud I was of all involved, this respect has only grown over the course of the last week.
I wanted to share with you this week something written by Leora Cruddas (Leora leads the Confederation of School Trusts – the national organisation and sector body for school trusts in England to which ESW belongs). I could have plagiarised or edited what she has written but felt that her message captured perfectly my own feelings about how all of those working within Education South West and beyond have behaved in the last year.
“On 18th March, the Prime Minister announced to the nation that schools in England were to shut from Friday 20th March 2020 until further notice as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Prime Minister’s decision came as UK deaths reached 104. As I write, in the UK today, there have been 4.2 million cases of coronavirus and over 125,000 deaths. It has been a tragic time in our global history. So many of us have suffered the unbearable loss of loved ones – family members, relatives, friends and colleagues.
But this has also been a story of heroism and service and great courage. Our public services have been magnificent. Our NHS has been on the front line of the pandemic and it is right that the nation has applauded them. And so have our other public services – the police, carers, and of course those working in education.
This short reflection is testimony to the courage and professional will of all of you in our schools and trusts:
- In March last year, you moved to remote education within days of being told to limit attendance in schools, while contributing to the national effort by continuing to educate those children who most needed our help and the children of key workers.
- You fed the most vulnerable, cared about their welfare, watched for their safety.
- You opened schools more widely in June, despite public concern, and built parental confidence and trust.
- At extremely short notice, you put in place processes for teachers to assess students as part of a different approach to awarding grades because exams were cancelled.
- In September, you achieved extraordinary levels of attendance, showing just how much parents trust schools, leaders and teachers.
- You taught intensively throughout the Autumn term, assessed gaps in knowledge and planned interventions.
- You spent your Christmas holidays working out how to implement mass Covid testing in secondary schools and planning for the Spring term.
- Then on 4th January 2021, after just one day at school, attendance was again restricted. You moved immediately to remote education while still making provision for those who most need our support and the children of key workers. This time, you knew more about remote education, so immediately parents started reporting that they quality and quantity of remote education exceeded their expectations.
- And now, in March you have opened schools again to all pupils. Yet again, we have seen extraordinary levels of attendance. You have set up Covid-19 testing on secondary school sites. You have implemented controversial policies with skill and quiet diplomacy, working with your staff and communities to ensure that people feel safe.
- Yet again, you are in the process of making sure that young people get the fairest possible grade as public exams have once again been cancelled.
You have done all of this, overseen by magnificent governance. A board’s strategic decisions directly impact on how schools are run and on the wellbeing of its staff and pupils. When Covid-19 crisis escalated, boards had to act quickly and make critical decisions at every stage of the crisis.
However hard this is (and it has been very difficult most of the time), you have never stopped, not once, to put yourselves first. At every moment, you have done your civic duty.
Despite the lack of clarity, the contradictory information, the rapid changes in policy, school leaders and boards have been determined to make sense of it.
You have done this because you believe in the power of education to improve lives – and indeed to change the world.
So quite simply, thank you. You are a national treasure.”
Have a fantastic weekend, when it comes,