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September is always a month of high hopes and expectations in the school calendar.

Heralding the start of a new year, we welcome new and old pupils, new staff members and new leaders.

It is always a feel-good time of year, as we go again with the next group of children, as children move up a year and take on the next opportunities and as we recommit ourselves to helping each of them achieve and experience the very best that we can imagine.

It is impossible to do that without pausing and reflecting a little on the last 18 months while hoping for a more consistent year ahead.

We know there will be positive Covid-19 cases and our schools are all prepared for a Plan B, and maybe C or D, should cases rise – either in their particular school or across the area or country.

And while the first few days for our secondary schools saw a return to Covid testing inside their buildings, we are now just delighted to be focusing on education in the classroom.

We welcome more than 2,000 children and young people and around 200 staff who started in our schools at the beginning of the new term and we wish our new school leaders all the best for their new roles.

As well as positivity for the months ahead, we have also started the new school year with lots of good news with a further acreditation for our tutoring programme, SP Tutors, and another 96 placements added to our KickStart programme.

Becky Poynter has been named a finalist in the National Governors’ Association awards for outstanding governance professional, as has our trust board for outstanding academy trust governance

This is a big year in many ways. There are big ambitions in many schools and we expect to have a major push on training for school ‘senior mental health leads’.

I think everyone, of every age, has suffered to some degree over the last 18 months. Whether it is the fears of the first lockdown unknown, health concerns, missing social interaction or struggling to study at home, this has been a particular tough time for our young people.

This week, we were pleased to welcome the television cameras to Castle Manor Academy in Haverhill where two students spoke eloquently, and candidly, on the issue of wellbeing as part of Youth Mental Health Day. Mental health must be pushed higher up the agenda and form a big part of our trust commitment and all our school’s curriculum.

I would like to wish all senior leaders, trust central team and board, staff, school governors and our students a very enjoyable school year ahead.

By Tim Coulson, Chief Executive, Unity Schools Partnership