I write this as we approach the end of the school year – one none of us working in education will ever forget.
We have all been through every emotion going as our staff admirably coped with incredible changes to their professional life alongside personal anxieties.
This month’s newspaper column, in any year, would give us a chance to look back, reflect, and pay tribute to our Unity family.
Never before has this been more needed and deserved, in fact 450 words doesn’t even start to do it justice.
In an education system that is often described, unfairly I might say, as unwieldy, our schools have shown how agile and flexible they can be.
Within mere days, they had to start an unprecedented and comprehensive home learning programme as lockdown was suddenly announced.
At the same time, they kept their schools open for key worker and vulnerable children, often during school holidays and bank holidays alike.
We all learned quickly about Zoom and Teams, assemblies became virtual, staff took to Tik Tok and You Tube to communicate through song, dance and simply saying ‘hello’ and ‘are you ok?’.
As more and more guidance followed and risk assessments had to be updated on numerous occasions, schools slowly prepared to welcome more children back.
But they would do so with safety markings in the playground and the classrooms and while dealing with understandable anxiety from staff, students and families alike.
Slowly, things improved. More children returned and more and more laughter was heard in the classrooms once again.
School leaders continued to show impressive ingenuity and planning to invite children from other year groups back in.
Throughout all this, their school staff have adapted and responded with flexibility and responsibility. It wouldn’t have worked without them.
Likewise, the reaction from our parents has always been hugely encouraging and positive. We know some did not agree with areas of the Government guidance around the return to schools and so we worked with those families to listen to their concerns and provide their children with appropriate home schooling.
We now look forward. To an examination season like no other and then a start of a new school year – again like no other.
All our schools are now planning – once again – to ensure we return to school in a positive and responsible way, listening and responding to anxieties, and moving forward to provide our children with the best education possible.
I said 450 words wouldn’t be anywhere near enough to pay tribute to staff at all our secondary, special and primary schools. And indeed to every member of the education sector across the country.
But, in fact, just two are needed. Thank you. You have all been a credit to your profession. I wish you the peaceful and enjoyable summer holidays that you all deserve.