Monday can’t come soon enough say Leeds headteachers ahead of school reopening for 'lost generation'

As schools across Leeds will reopen to all pupils from Monday, we spoke to headteachers and principals to find out how they are preparing for our city’s children.

Matthew Fitzpatrick, Principal at Morley Newlands Academy, and Sue Woodroofe, Principal at The Grammar School at Leeds are looking forward to welcoming pupils back to their schools
Matthew Fitzpatrick, Principal at Morley Newlands Academy, and Sue Woodroofe, Principal at The Grammar School at Leeds are looking forward to welcoming pupils back to their schools

Most children in Leeds have been home schooled since the start of January when all primary and secondary schools closed to pupils except for vulnerable children and children of key workers.

From Monday, March 8, all pupils in England will return to the classroom in the first phase of the Government’s road map out of lockdown.

Through the 'excitement', 'delight' and 'thrill' for headteachers and principals about children returning to the classroom, a lot of preparation has gone on behind the scenes to ensure schools in Leeds are safe and families can be confident about sending their children back.

Boston Spa Academy

School leaders in Leeds told the YEP they are optimistic about having their pupils back in schools after what has been a tough time of disruption and uncertainty for a ‘lost generation’.

For Mrs Catherine Dodds, the headteacher of The Froebelian School in Horsforth, ‘Monday cannot come soon enough’.

Mrs Dodds added: “We are so excited to be welcoming all our children back to Froebelian and thorough preparations are well in hand to ensure their safe return.

“Our single-class bubble structure approach throughout the pandemic, combined with stringent control measures, has been very successful.

Matthew Partington, headteacher of Roundhay School (photo: Matthew Partington)

“Our initial focus will be to monitor the children’s happiness and well-being after another protracted period away from school and to help them settle back into daily routines.

“We are also looking forward to capitalising on the various skills and learning behaviours the children have developed over the last twelve months in terms of their independence, resilience and adaptability.

“We are incredibly proud of our children and their families who have responded in a truly spirited way during lockdown.”

Matthew Partington, headteacher of Roundhay School, echoed Mrs Dodds’ excitement for having children back in the classroom.

He is optimistic for a bright future ahead for the 'lost generation' of children - despite the difficulties and uncertainties they have faced this year.

Mr Partington said: “We’ve heard plenty of talk about a ‘lost generation” - and there’s no doubt that it’s been a tough time for young people given all the changes, disruption and uncertainty. But I actually have a huge sense of optimism.

“Their engagement in remote learning, the positivity and resilience they have shown, makes me not only proud, but also incredibly hopeful.

“I genuinely think that they have a very bright future ahead of them."

Mr Partington clarified that while he reckons everyone would prefer not to talk to each other through a computer screen, the safety of his pupils is his priority.

He added: “Getting every single child back into the classroom safely has always been the priority, and we cannot wait to welcome them back. The testing programme will run alongside safety measures that are already established.

“I know that schools across the region will be doing whatever it takes over the coming months to ensure that these children can settle back into school quickly, and be assured of the success that they deserve.

“Pupils, families and school staff have made the last year work, and despite the circumstances it has worked really well - but given a choice I reckon we’d all prefer not to talk to each other through a computer screen!”

Matthew Fitzpatrick is the Principal at Morley Newlands Academy, and he wants his school to be a place of ‘reassurance and stability’ for the community.

He said that reopening is a 'real tonic' for pupils, teachers and parents.

Mr Fitzpatrick added: “As a school, we have ensured that our risk assessment and safety protocols are in place so that we can have a successful reopening on Monday.

"Not only is this imperative in terms of controlling the potential spread of the virus, it is also key to gaining the confidence of families who are sending their children back to school. In an anxious time, schools need to be a place of reassurance and stability for the community.

“As a staff, we are really looking forward to seeing everyone again. The prospect of reopening to all pupils on Monday 8 March is a real tonic for teachers, pupils and parents.

“While home-schooling has been the emphasis for many families, it's is simply not a substitute for actual school-based learning where children can thrive in an engaging and sociable environment with teachers delivering lessons in the way they're most used to.”

‘The majority of Senior School pupils have consented to Covid tests’

Principal of The Grammar School at Leeds, Sue Woodroofe, said: “We are thrilled that all of our children will be returning to school next Monday.

“The majority of our Senior School pupils have consented to be tested for COVID-19, and are coming into school on Friday for their first test. This is one of a number of measures that we have in place to create a safe environment.

“We are aiming to have everything as back to normal as possible from Monday with face to face teaching, a comprehensive co-curricular programme and, of course, a delicious lunch for everyone!

“We are very mindful that whilst lots of children will be excited to be back at school some will feel nervous and anxious, so we are putting measures in place to provide additional support for these pupils."

‘Nothing can replace the experience of having our highly skilled teaching colleagues in the classroom working with our students face-to-face’

Adam Ryder, Principal at Boston Spa Academy said: “We are delighted that our students will be able to return to the academy. Although our students have engaged exceptionally well with their live lessons whilst they have been working at home, nothing can replace the experience of having our highly skilled teaching colleagues in the classroom working with our students face-to-face. We know that this is where our exceptional students truly excel.

"Having students back in the academy will only serve to improve their mental health and well-being as they will be able to interact and meet their friends and peers again.

"We will continue to put extensive support in place for students to make sure that they are not disadvantaged by the disruption the pandemic has brought to their education over the last 12 months.

"I also recognise that the return of students to school will alleviate some of the pressure felt by families during the most recent national lockdown, all of whom have been fantastic in their support of the academy and our students.

"I anticipate that some families may well be cautious about the return of all students to school, however, I know that they will be reassured by the high level of safety measures that we have put in place at the academy to help reduce the risk of transmission across our school community."