Kate Jefferson is Headteacher of Millbank Academy, a primary school in London. She describes the steps her trust has taken to continue remote learning and how she’s preparing to welcome more pupils back to school.
How has your school continued its education during lockdown?
Our school benefited hugely from collaborating with two other Future Academies primary schools to run a joint key worker hub. This continued throughout the holidays to provide support for key worker families.
As a member of a MAT, Future Academies, there has been a huge amount of collaboration and support available. The trust's Curriculum Centre has proved invaluable; our cumulative, knowledge-led curriculum is covered thoroughly by our textbooks, which support children's remote learning. These books were ready to go out from day one and children were already familiar with them. Centralised training has allowed quality CPD to continue in key development areas, and the headteachers have met regularly to discuss forward planning.
What are your plans for welcoming pupils back to school?
Millbank Academy will be opening on June 8th for a staff training day. This will ensure that when colleagues return to on-site working they are confident in the new arrangements and have sufficient time to set up their workspaces.
From June 9th there will be a staggered return of pupils. Class sizes will be kept small and hygiene will be prioritised. This will enable us to adjust our risk assessments, once we are all in the building, to maximise the safety of staff and students. The safety of our students and staff is paramount, and this drives our decision making.
How are you preparing for key challenges?
The impact of school closures on children's academic attainment, particularly that of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, will be keenly felt.
We will work tirelessly with families to ensure that we make up for lost time. We cannot fail these children. Rigour must be present in remote learning and safeguarding must continue. When we return, we need to build in as much efficiency as possible into the timetable to ensure that children of all abilities reach the outcomes they deserve.
Smaller class sizes will allow teachers to work at pace and with greater individual focus when teaching. Targeted and vulnerable students must be strongly encouraged to attend and we will do all we can to ensure that they do. Pastoral support will also be key; we will draw on the advice of professionals from the Anna Freud Centre and keep safeguarding at the core of our practice.
Above all, we will take all reasonable steps to keep everyone safe and to build confidence across the school community. We must keep the joy of learning while supporting the school community pastorally in this ‘new normal’.