Praise from pupils as academies adjust well to the ‘new normal’

Tollbar Multi-Academy Trust schools in our area - in Louth, North Somercotes, and the primary in Theddlethorpe - have shared a glimpse behind the scenes of how the schools are operating under the ‘new normal’ thanks to Covid-19.

Louth Academy staff have won praise for their commitment to a full-time return to school, with attendance figures remaining high throughout September, following the introduction of a raft of safety measures to ensure the safety of all its students and staff.

New Principal Philip Dickinson said: “It is incredible to welcome all the staff and students back full time to the classroom at Louth Academy this month.

“We have put a whole host of measures in place to try and ensure the safety of everyone in the current circumstances.

Louth Academy.

“These include year group bubbles, staggered start and finish times, different entrances for different year groups, separate playgrounds and different sittings in the canteen at lunchtimes.

“The sites are being deep cleaned regularly and everyone is practising regular sanitising and hand-washing.

“The Academy has superb facilities thanks to the intervention of Tollbar Multi Academy Trust and, because we have two sites, we can ensure that we practise safe social distancing as much as possible whilst still committing to delivering the Full Curriculum.

“We wanted to keep things as normal as we possibly could for the students at Louth Academy and the incredible sports facilities we have here, both at the Upper and Lower Sites, have allowed us to do that.

Louth Academy.

“This also means that we can continue to fulfil the Government’s aims to ensure that our students remain as fit as possible throughout and beyond this current health crisis.

“I am extremely proud of all of the students and staff as attendance has remained high throughout September and there has been 100% commitment from staff.

“There is no substitute for being back in the classroom. Teachers and students agree that this is the best way to learn and, so far, everyone is fully embracing the new look Academy and the new ways of working.”

Year 8 student Jessica Watson, who is at school on the Lower Site, said: “At first I was nervous, but the school has been organised so well that I have no fears now.

Somercotes Academy.

“For the most part, we remain in our classroom bubbles and teachers move around the site to teach us. When it was lockdown I did a lot of work on the FROG Online platform, but I am much happier to be back in the classroom where I can see the teachers and some of my friends.”

Investment has continued at the Academy this summer, with a complete renovation of the Upper Site Theatre now offering GCSE students the opportunity to access a university-style environment and take part in lectures.

Wellbeing Wednesdays have also been instigated at the Academy to promote positivity and aspirational drive for everyone during these difficult times.

Mr Dickinson added: “The improvements made by Tollbar Multi Academy Trust at Louth Academy, and the fantastic facilities and space that we are privileged to enjoy, have ensured that we are operating as close to normal as possible for students so far, and I want to say thank you to everyone who is working so hard to make that possible.”

Somercotes Academy.

Meanwhile, at Somercotes Academy, similar safety measures have been put in place, and students have taken it all on the chin when it comes to adapting to a new regime at the Academy - with staff reporting that most students admit they are just happy to be back in the classroom.

For Year 7 students, who only joined the Academy this month from Primary School, the change has been a steeper one, but the children say they are happy to be back at school and feel confident of their health and safety .

Principal Frances Green is delighted to have all of the students back in the classroom and says the strict regime of Covid-19 measures has been embraced wholeheartedly by staff and students alike.

She said: “Everyone has missed classroom learning. There is no substitute for it, despite the advances in online learning through our FROG platform. Teachers and students all agree that nothing compares to being face to face in a classroom where you can tackle things as they arise.

She added: “For that reason, everyone has fully embraced the measures we have introduced to keep them safe and I am very proud of everyone for doing so.”

Year 7 student Alyssia Khan said: “I am pleased to be back learning things and back to seeing friends. I think the school is keeping us safe.

Theddlethorpe Academy.

“We now have a lot of health and safety lessons. The main difference is that we are in bubbles and use hand sanitisation.

“We are just in one classroom in a bubble with teachers coming to us. All our lessons are here apart from PE.”

Zach Hicken (Year 7) added: “I’m quite confident that we are in safe hands. It’s frustrating that we missed the transition from Primary School and SATS though, but I am enjoying it here. It’s fun to be at school again.”

It is clear that primary schools currently pose different challenges to secondary schools - but at Theddlethorpe Primary Academy, Principal Susan Cook has said the children have reacted “extremely well” to the new regime.

Ms Cook said this has allowed teachers to go full steam ahead with teaching the National Curriculum again after months of disruption.

Mrs Cook continued: “The new regime begins even before the children come through the school gates. We have staggered start times so there is no congestion outside the school gates, which parents have thanked us for, and the pupils arrive through separate gateways. The younger children are brought in by their siblings, and every child sanitises their hands at the outdoor sinks before entering the Academy buildings.

“Once they have sanitised their hands we continue to sanitise throughout the day, with hand sanitisers on walls and desks and close to the teachers, so that pupils can use them at any time. We are hand-washing constantly throughout the day, especially before and after break times and before and after lunch breaks.

“At Theddlethorpe Academy the children are taught in three bubbles. We have Nursery and Reception; Years 5 and 6; and Years 1, 2, 3 and 4, and the children have been absolutely amazing with their response to this.

“The staff have also adapted really well to the new regime and we have done a very thorough risk assessment, which everyone has followed.

“We have gone full steam ahead with the National Curriculum, however, we have got a recovery curriculum in place too, so we have taken some time out to do mindfulness and we have a worry box in the classrooms and the children have been putting little statements into that.

“We have also introduced ‘The Daily Mile’ to get the children fit again after the lockdown, in line with Government guidelines.

“The children can either walk or run the mile and we are usually out in the playground for about 15 minutes every day to do that.

“I am extremely proud of the staff and pupils at the Academy, who are working together to ensure that we can return to school with as little disruption to learning as possible in these difficult times.”