The return to schools across Leeds "marks a milestone in providing normality – albeit a new normality" says headteacher

Leeds City Council is set to come up with its own way of monitoring and supporting schools over the coming year after exams and tests were cancelled due to coronavirus.

Monday, 7th September 2020, 4:45 pm

Coun Jonathan Pryor, the Executive Member for Learning, Skills and Employment is set to hold a meeting via Zoom this evening (Monday) with all the city's school headteachers to look at how the authority can gather data and focus on the next steps schools need to take.

The meeting also comes after many schools return to the classroom properly for the first time since the summer break and lockdown.

Teachers and school staff worked tirelessly over the weekend to make last minute preparations and ensure government guidelines were in place ready for thousand of pupils returning to school today.

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Children line up ready to go back to school at Hillcrest Academy.

Coun Pryor told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "We are going to talk about the first day, how it has gone, if there are any teething problems and if there is any additional support needed from the council.

"We are not formally collating exam results but we will be talking about what qualitative data that they can collect, maybe a survey, so we know where we should be focusing as a city and what expert support the schools need. I think that data is going to be more helpful than exams data. They give a sign but not the whole story, so this will be an opportunity to have a wider conversation about the relationship between the council and them.

"We will be interested to see if there is a pattern emerging and do similar schools have similar problems that is not on the radar of other schools."

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Children washing their hands in the newly installed outdoor sinks prior to entering the school building.

He added: "Kids need that structure and schools are working really hard to try and develop that. We know how much work has gone into making schools as safe as possible. There has been issues with government guidance where it is late and schools have had to adjust plans, but they are in a good place now.

"We have had a couple of issues where teachers have had positive COVID tests which means some parts of school openings have had to be delayed but the bubble system that schools are working in does work and does not mean the whole school has to close down."

Early morning rain did little to dampen the spirits of children and parents doing the school run again today.

Sam Done, principal at Hillcrest Academy near Harehills said: "Opening our doors to all of our pupils for the first time in six months was a fantastic feeling, and it was great to see so many of our children with smiles on their faces as they came through the school gate, in spite of the rain.

Handwashing is a new normal for youngsters going back to school.

“The pupils have been so excited to be coming back to school, where they can more easily access their education, as well as mix with their friends. Lockdown created significant barriers for many, but children were particularly hit hard through the loss of not only their access to learning, but also the loss of social interaction. Coming back today marks a milestone in providing normality – albeit a new normality – for our children.

“We do understand the fears of parents and carers and our team have worked hard over summer to try to relieve and reassure families of everything the academy has done to limit the risk of Covid as much as possible.

“I personally stand by the opinion that children do need to return to full time education, as school provides a safe and welcoming learning environment. We have longstanding specialist resources in place to monitor children’s mental health and wellbeing, with counselling services offered to those who have been affected by Covid-19 and the lockdown.”

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Thank you

Laura Collins