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Education chief Tim Coulson says his schools are already planning on how children can make up for lost time




To say it has been a turbulent year in the education system is something of an understatement.

We enter the final half term of a school year like no other with excitement, but also much still to ponder for the Government and school leaders alike.

At the top of the list is the Government’s Education Recovery Programme. Of course, we have all read the headlines – both positive and otherwise – and we continue to wait to see exactly what support each school will get.

Tim Coulson
Tim Coulson

But I also wanted to share some of the priorities within our own trust of secondary, special and primary schools.

Our senior leaders have worked together to plan ensuring children make up for the time we have had out of schools.

Our plans include ensuring teaching is the best it can be, every day, every lesson, as well as greater enrichment opportunities, academic interventions such as additional tutoring and starting to devise what schools would do were the Government to fund longer school days.

Of course, no decision has yet been made about whether to extend the school day. Some will feel this is the right thing to do and others will feel it is unnecessary. But we think it is right that we explore all options, and look at all the evidence, before making these big decisions.

At the heart of own action plan is ‘reading, reading, reading’. I am sure we all agree that this should be fundamental in any education plan, recovery or otherwise.

But the recovery plan is just one big item on the agenda. Almost as soon as the decision to remove face masks in the classroom was taken, the focus has quickly moved to whether we should vaccinate secondary school students.

This, too, is always going to be quite contentious and we understand any parents’ concerns as we all wait to hear the official recommendations from the Government.

Students have already been amazing in taking the twice-weekly Covid tests, something that has made a big difference with how our schools have been able to run in the last few months.

Against this backdrop of uncertainly, we are proud of how our school staff have adapted, coped and responded admirably.

And amid all the anxiety and uncertainty, we are proud that we have successfully opened five new ‘SEND hubs’ within our schools with a sixth on the way this summer, providing specialist support for children that need it.

The need for such facilities was glaring and I know what a difference they are already making at Castle Manor Academy, Clements Primary Academy and Burton End Primary Academy, all in Haverhill, and Newmarket Academy and Houldsworth Valley Primary Academy, also in Newmarket.

The hubs are based on the school sites which allows for them to have both their own independence and to offer opportunities to integrate with mainstream education.

Finding different solutions, bespoke to each school, is going to be key going forward.

- Tim Coulson is chief executive of Unity Schools Partnership

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