This week local children and young people successfully returned to schools and further education settings.
Councillor Cordelia Law, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services in Torbay, said: “The council has worked closely with educational settings throughout the pandemic to help support continued educational needs and provide Covid-safe learning environments for all of our children and young people.
“This week has seen a return to learning and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all head teachers and principals and staff who have worked tirelessly to get our children and young people back into the classroom. They have gone above and beyond to ensure that the transition has gone smoothly. I would also like to thank parents and carers for their support, we have seen very few absences across all settings. Attendance is crucial if we are to give our children and young people the best educational chances, it is also important for social interaction and wellbeing.”
Primary schools were fully opened from Monday and all children were expected to attend. Secondary schools and further education settings are being staggered as testing has to be undertaken. Asymptomatic testing is vital because staff, students and pupils without symptoms could be carrying the virus and may spread it to others. By having robust testing procedures in place it will help helps secondary schools and colleges to operate as safely as possible.
Mark Eager, Principal of Brixham College, said: “By the end of today, the majority of our students will have had their second Covid-19 test. This is due to the proficiency and professionalism of the in-house testing team made up of our science technicians and admin support staff – it’s been an all hands to the pump exercise. It has also been a real example to our students on what can be achieved with a positive mind set and can-do attitude.
“The return to schooling on Monday, continuing through the rest of this week, has been smooth. Students and staff are taking it in their stride. Support from parents and the wider community has been outstanding throughout this chapter in our college history but particularly in terms of return to school. From a staff perspective, it has been great to see the manner in which students have been welcomed and feedback to me has been extremely positive around ‘life returning’ to the corridors and classrooms.
“Personally, from my perspective I am very proud of both students and staff’s resilience, enterprise, and the sense of humour they have maintained to get through this challenging time together. It is fantastic to feel we are making a positive step forward in a much needed return to normality.”
Tracey Cleverly, Interim Chief Executive of the Learning Academy Partnership, said: “We have been delighted to welcome our pupils back into schools, and support many of the measures put in place, including staff testing and wider use of face masks by staff, to keep our school communities safe. We are fully committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment which allows our pupils to thrive in their learning.
“There has been a fantastic buzz across all of the schools in the Trust. Teachers have been planning and preparing their face-to-face teaching and there were huge smiles in every school as we welcomed back our communities. The Learning Academy Partnership are committed to empowering excellence in all our pupils. This will have been a challenging time for many of our families, so we are committed to delivering our full education offer alongside individual support that some pupils might need, while also ensuring all our children feel comfortable and happy returning to face to face teaching and adjusting to being back within their bubbles.”
Stewart Biddles, CEO Riviera Education Trust, said: “It has been fantastic to see our children (and their parents) bounding back to school this week. Across our Trust and indeed across all of Torbay, education staff have worked hard to ensure that our schools are safe places to work and learn and our parents and communities have fully supported the protective measures in place to enable all children to be back at school.
“Teachers, parents and children have gone to great efforts over the past months to ensure that our children continued to learn, and that their learning was enjoyable, inspirational and useful, but there is no substitute for in-school, face to face learning and all that goes with it. We are delighted to see our children rekindling their friendships, enjoying playtimes and spreading childhood joy across our communities once more.
“There have undoubtedly been hard times faced by many over the past year, but we are looking forward to brighter days and cannot wait to re-engage with residential activities, school trips and summer fairs, to name but a few. We would like to thank all of the parents, staff, schools and businesses, and the Local Authority, that we work with for their continued support which has helped to make this return to school such a positive experience.”
Kelly Sooben, Vice Principal, People and Resources, South Devon College, said: “The testing facility at the College has run exceptionally smoothly since the start of the week. We recruited 50 new members of staff that are dedicated to the running of this facility, 40 of which are needed on each day for it to run.
“We’re pleased to report that on Monday 8 March, the day of reopening, we saw just under 1000 students tested. Even better, none of those students tested positive which meant they were able to get back to enjoying College life again.
“The facility is a great development of our already existing smaller scale testing centre that we put in place for students that needed to be on-site during the lockdown that begun in January 2021. With 15 swabbing bays, we now have capacity to complete 180 tests an hour, equivalent to over 1000 a day. We are testing students three times and giving guidance before we issue them with home testing kits to complete future tests regularly from home too.
“As some of our staff have highlighted, the whole experience has been very positive. Huge credit is due for our students that have taken the whole process in their stride, but this would not be possible without our dedicated staff. It is very much a collective effort, and everyone is more motivated than ever with an end in sight. It’s truly inspiring to see and the College are proud of everyone involved.”
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