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December is always a time for both looking back and looking forward.

Of course, trying to review the education system and events in our local schools in 2020 would probably take quite some time. It has been an uncertain and difficult last nine months.

But it would also be wrong to not talk about some of the highlights, in keeping with this time of year.

And what are my memories of 2020?

I always knew teachers, and indeed all school staff, were a special bunch, always willing to go the extra mile to help and support our young minds.

Since the first lockdown started in March, they have truly gone above and beyond – and more.

Whether it be staying open for vulnerable pupils or keyworker families or learning how to produce a comprehensive home-schooling programme, schools have met every obstacle head-on and with considerable success.

After the first lockdown, I will always remember visiting schools in September and being struck by the simple sound of children returning, enjoying and learning in their classrooms once more. It was a simple sound, but a real sense of normality carved from an uncertain society.

Of course, there have been many challenges, but these have all been fronted head-on and with can-do attitudes by all our secondary, primary and special schools.

This has been matched by a true resilience among our pupils and students. With our support and guidance, they won’t let the events of 2020 shape their future – which is a huge testimony to their strength.

Schools, in and out of the trust, have worked together, shared strategies and talked about what works and doesn’t work – learning and adapting along the way.

It has been humbling to see this in action and I feel more privileged than ever to lead the Unity Schools Partnership.

At this time of year, we must also look to the future. So what might 2021 hold for our local education system?

We all fear what January and February might look like, from a national perspective, and the message of remaining safe and sensible will continue throughout our schools.

But there is hope on the horizon with the start of the vaccination process and more to follow.

We are all looking to Spring as a time when we might start finding a bit more normality in our everyday life.

No matter when the next 12 months are like, I know our schools are ready to continue providing the best education for your child as possible.

And we are not alone. We have learnt so much as a sector and will continue to do so by working together with the support of our staff, students, parents and communities.

May I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

“We have learnt so much as a sector and will continue to do so by working together with the support of our staff, students, parents and communities.”