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As a teacher and school senior leader of 35 years, nothing I have ever seen or done would have prepared me for the situation now facing our school staff, and I can only try to imagine how it must feel to have the job you love (which involves sharing your day with young people, and watching them thrive, learn and grow into young adults and enjoying the collegiality and support of the staffroom) snatched away and replaced with the remote digital service they are now working so hard to provide.

Even after two years of retirement, my body clock still sees me getting up at 6.30am, winding down at 6.00pm and developing fatigue, sniffles and colds at what would be school holidays – so how are our teachers coping with 24 hour exposure to emails, online meetings, learning platforms and social media, and without Easter and half term breaks?  And whilst risk assessment is part of the daily role of all teaching and school staff – how are they preparing for the return of some children to school with the invisible danger that we are all so aware of: Covid 19?

What hasn’t changed, and will never change is that Wembury staff and Governors will always put children’s wellbeing and safety at the very centre of all they plan and do.

And that is why Wembury Governors met remotely this week.  Our prime purpose was to ascertain how Wembury is preparing for the “new normal” that we are all hoping for in the near future.  I was in awe of the detailed risk assessment that had been shared with us before the meeting.  A live and evolving document, it describes the myriad of preparations that are being made, have been or will be made to keep Wembury pupils and staff safe as they return to school.  This goes beyond just the moving of furniture, and includes the ordering and purchasing of equipment and cleaning services – add to the usual Pens, Pencils and PE kit; Personal Protective Equipment and Personal Hygiene arrangements.  Governor Annie Kitchen was able to put the document into perspective as she described what she had seen in school as part of the staff team preparing the premises for the return of children. She writes:

Staff have been busily working in school to rearrange classrooms and shared spaces to ensure social distancing can be maintained.  Signage and floor markings make clear one way systems and markings outside have been placed so as to maintain social distancing without feeling too much like a prison yard, whilst yellow dots indicating seating spaces are able to be made into emojis.  Individual workstations have been set up in colour coded settings with individualised and named equipment – all wiped down with antibacterial cleaners, and ready to be cleaned at the end of every day.  In a time of high demand, Headteacher and staff have moved heaven and earth to get hold of the necessary PPE and cleaning services, and where signage has not been available, have turned their hands to creating their own – all with the greatest attention to trying to keep the lovely “Wembury” feel despite having to restrict access to areas and introduce strict circulation rules around the school.  It has been a mammoth task.

The Governors were pleased to approve the comprehensive Risk Assessment and Action Plan and we are confident that Wembury staff will do everything possible to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our pupils.

Teachers are expert jugglers; their usual role needing them to be educators, entertainers, counsellors, negotiators, peacemakers.  As things move forward and children return to school, our staff will still be delivering Educare, and online learning for those not in school, conducting wellbeing checks, and teaching.  Plus, of course they also have the wellbeing of their own families and loved ones to consider.

I have every confidence that our staff, as ever, will address the needs of all our young people as we move forward in a changing world – just watch and marvel at how expertly they keep all those plates spinning. 

The Governors would like to thank Susie Evans and all the Wembury staff for their hard work during these extreme times, and congratulate parents for rising to the challenge of home schooling.  We all long for the time when we can meet together and look back on these months of extremes to share our experiences and learn lessons to improve our future work.  But in the meantime, let’s all play our part in the best way that we can in supporting our young people in these unprecedented times – by being kind, and staying safe.                        
Lesley Taylor – Safeguarding Governor

Learning for Life