England & Wales, Global Covid-19, Education and children's services

School’s out! … not

Image by kieurope from Pixabay

Gosh, I am glad that the schools are closed, that’s one less thing for me to worry about!

On Friday 20th March 348 Nottinghamshire schools closed; on Monday 23rd March 324 schools opened to provide a critical local service and to play their part in this national emergency.

Over the last week I have had the opportunity and privilege to meet with all Headteachers or CEOs of Nottinghamshire’s schools. This involved 12 one hour Skype meetings, a logistical and for me technological challenge in itself. My most used phrases: “can xxxx mute/unmute? can you hear me? are you still there?”

I took this opportunity to express my thanks to them and to their staff for what has been achieved over the last couple of weeks, which is nothing short of heroic, discussed the context we are working in and engaged them in planning for the next few weeks/months.

The Headteachers and CEOs were consistent with their praise of their amazing staff. They were stepping up and pulling together to ensure that children at home remained in contact with their school and were experiencing some form of education.

Schools and all their staff, whether teaching or support, are playing a hugely important role in the country’s and this county’s response to the national emergency and they should take pride in that. What they are doing now and over the next few weeks and perhaps months will contribute literally to saving many lives, by enabling critical key workers to remain at work knowing that their children are safe and cared for by familiar and trusted adults.

It was important that we didn’t design our COVID-19 school system from County Hall, but that we empowered and supported groups of local schools, who know their children, families and communities best, to develop arrangements that meet local need. With speed and good grace they have achieved this in a truly remarkable way.

Our schools are collaborating more than ever before, building on strong foundations and driven by our moral purpose to do the right thing and to play their part in the country’s response to COVID-19. Differences of governance, structures, phases and indeed some history have been set aside in our joint venture to develop enough school places for:

  • Children of critical keyworkers;
  • Children with a social worker; and
  • Children with an Education, Health and Care Plan

Only a matter of a few days ago they were planning to break up for the Easter holiday, today they have plans to not only stay open but also to ensure that enough numbers of them will be open on both Good Friday and Bank Holiday Monday.

Schools are very much not closed, they are in fact very open, open to those that need them and very open to new ideas and working in new ways.

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