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CEO Tim Coulson gives an update on how Unity Schools Partnership is dealing with the pandemic



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As I write this just days after our schools returned for a new term, it still seems right to wish you all a Happy New Year.

What will 2022 be like in the education sector? In keeping with the last couple of years, there will be challenges brought about by the pandemic.

No one can predict with complete confidence what obstacles will need to be overcome. But I do remain confident that our schools, our staff, our families and communities will all work together to offer the best possible education for all.

Dr Tim Coulson
Dr Tim Coulson

The first ‘challenge’ came last week, before the classrooms were even full again, when students returned early to have in-school lateral flow tests.

Of course, this is now nothing new. School staff were once again asked to support in ways we would never have believed just two years ago. But support they did as school halls and sports centre were converted into test centres once more.

Many of the staff have been involved in this process since the very first day schools were asked to do this. Something that might still seems strange and foreign to many of us has now become almost second nature to them.

It is an example of how we have learned – maybe had to learn – over the last two years.

Schools continue to be hit by student absence meaning many are faced with isolations and hybrid learning, combining in class and studying at home for a short while.

Most are also having to face staff absence, in keeping with many areas of society. For many, this is a bigger problem than student isolation and has left many schools almost having to design contingency plans on a far-too-regular basis. But design them they do.

We have also seen the return of face masks in the classroom. While we all hope this is a temporary measure, we understand that schools must do their bit to try and stem the rise of the Omicron variant.

Amid all the national headlines and societal concerns that remain, it was wonderful to welcome back our students last week and we wish them well for the calendar year ahead.

While always adhering to and acknowledging the national guidance, there are some much-needed familiar plans going on.

It may be the next big school production or a valuable school trip, positive Ofsted results or preparation for exams taking place later this year.

In so many different ways, there is excellent work going on throughout every primary, secondary and special school across the country.

And that is what gives me great hope for a successful 2022 for everyone in education.

- Unity Schools Partnership is currently consulting on plans to reorganise four schools in Bury St Edmunds. Find out more and please share your views via https://consultationbse.unitysp.co.uk/

-- Dr Tim Coulson is chief executive of Unity School Partnership