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A lot of work has gone into the smooth return of children to schools, says Unity Schools Partnership's Tim Coulson

This week marked a monumental moment for education in this country. After two long months, our schools began reopening for all students. Just typing those seven words seems extra special.

On Monday morning, I am sure that there were a few nerves. But above this was excitement and delight as we started to welcome all students back to our primary, secondary and special schools.

I know that it was greeted with huge joy among our school leaders and staff who were able to hear the noise of pupils catching up in and out of the classroom.

Tim Coulson (44666809)
Tim Coulson (44666809)

For too long, our schools have understandably played host to only a small number of students – making their environments a rather quiet affair.

At times, it resembled a school during the holidays rather than a hub of educational activity, albeit remotely for the majority.

At home, of course, it was quite different as school staff, students and families worked together in impressive fashion.

Online learning has come on leaps and bounds with live lessons, assemblies and digital catch-ups.

It has been managed smoothly and professionally, but a far more favourable option is the one we have this week.

By the time you read this, our secondary schools will be on to the second of three rounds of lateral flow testing.

An equally impressive feat which has seen the likes of school office staff, food and IT technicians and governors come together and produce a calm and comprehensive system in the middle of their sports halls.

Secondary school students were asked to take their first test before returning to the classroom but they have done so in a mature and respectful manner. All awe-inspiring stuff.

Another event on Monday was equally inspiring and one I was incredibly proud to see our trust host.

To mark International Women’s Day, we held a Women in Leadership panel discussion with five female leaders from the trust.

Hosted by the Unity Equality and Diversity Committee, it was an interesting and engaging hour which concluded with a question and answer session.

There has been a lot written recently about supporting students who have missed so much in the traditional classroom.

To say ‘lost learning’ or ‘catch up’ is unfair terminology on students who have worked so hard over the last two months.

But some will need support. At Unity, we had begun to discuss this prior to this week’s exciting return.

For the first few weeks, the most important thing is getting students back into a routine of school. Socially and psychologically, they will need all our support.

We will then review over the Easter holidays how the first few weeks have gone, what we need to do and, of course, the impact on the wider society.

But for now, let us all just enjoy having students back and our school buildings once again full of laughter and learning.

-- Dr Tim Coulson is chief executive of the Unity Schools Partnership

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