Schools work together through coronavirus outbreak disruption

THE ‘Dunkirk spirit’ has been evident for all to see at Saddleworth School over the recent very challenging weeks.

The team at the school has had to adapt to continue to function and cope with the demands of coronavirus.As soon as the Prime Minister announced the closure of all schools on Wednesday, March 18, a rota was put in place to ensure uninterrupted provision for the children of key workers and those who are particularly vulnerable.

Even before the announcement, leaders at the school were providing parents with regular updates regarding changes. Children and staff were being asked to wash hands regularly and the cleaning team was painstakingly wiping door handles and surfaces in addition to their regular cleaning regime.

The ICT team, following the lead of Mr Stucke, created the conditions for colleagues and pupils to access home learning. The clever technical experts put in place an online platform and trained teachers and pupils in how to use it.

Since the lockdown came into force, pupils have been able to keep in touch with their teachers using email and have been invited to engage in a vast array of learning online.

Headteacher Dave Watson said: “During these difficult times for everyone, we are inviting pupils to continue with their learning at home.

“We appreciate that every household will be different; some parents will need access to the computer themselves to work from home, others will need paper copies of the learning that has been set.

“We don’t expect pupils to complete every task set but it’s important that they don’t get out of the rhythm of learning.

“No one knows how long the closure is going to last and obviously we are trying to minimise the impact the closure has on learning.”

The school is open to the children of key workers, with staff placed on a rota.

Parents and carers responded to the government’s call to only take up a place at school if there was a genuine need. The number of children attending is small, with about 15 each day dependent on shift patterns.

Saddleworth School is part of the Dovestone Learning Partnership (DLP), made up of schools across the locality who decided they should work together.

Part of Saddleworth School has been taken over by staff and pupils from Knowsley Junior School, whose parents are key workers, for the foreseeable future.

Vanessa Payne, Headteacher, said: “The Knowsley children have their own classroom that includes an ICT suite that they can use to access learning. They have exclusive use of toilets and their own playground and picnic space.

“It’s working out really well and means we don’t have to ask our office staff, site manager, cleaners and cooks to come into school.”

Saddleworth School has even been able to keep local suppliers busy by offering a grocery service to colleagues. Teachers and support staff can place their orders in advance and collect on the days they are working.

The scheme is the brainchild of catering manager Margaret Speakes who has been in school every day since its closure with a committed team to ensure children and staff are fed and that the school remains clean.

“It’s been fantastic to see how colleagues have rallied around.” Mr Watson added.

“This whole situation has been so awful for so many and yet it has brought out the very best in staff who are determined to support the national effort to get this virus under control and protect the NHS.

“I’m immensely proud of our team and of being involved with such a tremendous community of professionals.”

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