AS COVID-19 continues to cause disruption right across the UK, more and more challenges are faced by schools across the country. Just one of those challenges came after it was announced over the festive break that schools would be required to carry out mass testing of staff and pupils. So, how does a group with 21 schools which support some of the most vulnerable children in the UK get ready to carry out this level of testing. We caught up with Keys Group Director of Education Nicola Kelly to tell us more.
“As we provide education and support for vulnerable children, and those with social, emotional and mental health difficulties, our schools have remained open throughout the pandemic, doing all they can every day to help our pupils and their families and carers. Some students are still attending, while others, for a number of reasons, remain at home to learn. While we’ve been really pleased with our attendance numbers, but some parents are understandably worried about sending their children in to school and some have to self-isolate for their own or their family’s health reasons.
“We stay in touch with those young people working from home every day and support their parents or carers. We undertake weekly home visits to ensure everyone is safe, deliver home learning packs, virtual lessons and digital learning via Learning Possibilities 365 ,providing as much support as we possibly can. In school, we’ve obviously done all we can to provide the safest possible environment for the children and staff.
“We, like our colleagues in mainstream environments, have been faced with challenges as educators that I don’t think we ever could have imagined, and I know every school has risen to the challenge time and time again.
“And setting up testing was no different. Faced with something we’ve never had to even consider before, the team had everything in place to carry out the testing required by the Government across 21 schools in less than a week. It was a mammoth task and took in everything from setting up a safe area to test in, procurement of the correct PPE, training in the use of PPE and carrying out of the testing as well as sourcing services we’ve never needed before like clinical waste disposal. If you’ll forgive the pun, it’s been a real learning curve!
“And of course, the guidance arrived when most of our educational team were taking a well-earned break over Christmas and New Year. But, within a week, we were ready, our doors were open and our pupils were back.
“It’s really important that our schools are open – not just for learning, but for socialisation too.
“Everyone right across the schools has been so understanding of that and just so resilient – both the staff and pupils – they have just hunkered down and got on with it. I’ve been very proud.
“I’d like to think this is the last challenge COVID-19 will throw at schools, but that is probably wishful thinking! What I know for sure though is that the young people and staff teams in Keys’ schools are more than up to the challenge!”