It has been another momentous week for us all.
On Monday, Boris Johnson announced that all remaining Covid restrictions were set to end on Monday 19th July.
A day later, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and then Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that school bubbles would also be ending.
At one stage, the bubbles worked very well in our education system. They enabled year groups to return to classrooms by working independently away from other age groups.
While not ideal of course, this allowed schools to carry out their own contact tracing when there was a positive case with pupils then isolating to ensure the infection did not spread.
But now, at the same time as we keep reading headlines about a return to some kind of normal, it hasn’t always felt like that in schools.
Statistics last week estimated that almost 400,000 pupils were currently isolating with only a fraction of that number testing positive for Covid.
This clearly creates massive upheaval for leaders, teachers and families as well as the educational and mental health impact on those students missing yet more school.
This could not carry on and we are pleased that the Government has addressed this situation with the plans announced this week.
Of course, some normality has returned to our schools. Many have carried out some form of sports day, even without proud parents on the sideline, and one or two have even announced plans to reschedule Year 11 prom events.
Enrichment activities have taken place and many schools have got into football fever – with our St Edward’s Academy in Romford even visited by the Sky Sports News cameras (below) to discuss England alongside the importance of role models.
These are all things that can only happen in a school, in a classroom. Home schooling has been comprehensive and we have all learned a lot in the last year. Some things won’t change – parents’ evenings, for example, may remain virtual for many.
But this drastic system of tracing and isolation had to be addressed. We can’t have a school scenario where you can count the number of positive cases on one hand, but the number of students isolating going into the hundreds.
One hopes that the plans announced this week will go a long way to improving the situation ahead of a new school year in September.
Certainly the last 12 months will be one we will never forget. I make no apology for once again paying tribute to the incredible hard work, resilience and determination of everyone connected with the education system as well as the support of all trust staff, students families and school communities.
I hope you all have the peaceful, relaxing and enjoyable summer holidays that you truly deserve.
By Tim Coulson, Chief Executive, Unity Schools Partnership