Schools chief Tim Coulson can't wait for children to return to the classroom
Schools traditionally celebrate the beginning of a new year on two occasions. In January, as everyone does, and in September as each new academic year starts.
But there is a sense that we are also starting anew next week when we begin the summer term.
As has been well reported, the spring term started rather chaotically with a new lockdown announced after the first day of term – sending most children into a new remote learning programme.
How we rejoiced on Monday, March 8, to see schools fully reopening and to have three weeks of full-time school.
We now start a fortunately long summer term with the hope of no Covid disruptions but also, unusually without the annual examination season.
Behind the scenes, staff will be working very hard to assess the grades that young people should be awarded. It also means more weeks of uninterrupted lessons than we have seen for a long time.
None of us will forget the last year – the additional enforced family time with its benefits alongside all the restrictions, the illness and grief for so many, and the loss of attending so many big life moments.
In schools, we have also learnt so much.
Parents have seen much more closely the daily work of their children and new skills have emerged and developed.
Not just among children but school staff have developed new skills, some of which will remain useful even in normal times. For instance, we can now hold ‘remote’ events for so many more than we ever could in person.
The news is full of the education recovery that will be needed in the coming years.
While some children have kept up with where they should be, the gap between those who are behind the general standard of their peers has grown.
Reducing this gap has been a major focus for schools for many years but, in one pandemic-ridden year, so much of this work has been reversed.
We look forward to the Government’s plans for addressing this gap and we welcome all such funded programmes.
As well as academic progress, we look forward to children again having sustained time with their friends over the summer term.
The next few weeks and months will allow our schools to provide the opportunities that are less easy in remote learning, especially during the winter, such as intense physical activity and learning outdoors.
I hope all our school communities have had an enjoyable and restful Easter break.
We can’t wait for the new term to start and enjoy having school every day, every week.
Tim Coulson is chief executive of Unity Schools Partnership