Educate caught up with James Madine, chief executive officer at Progress Schools, to find out how lockdown is affecting the schools within its group.
How are you feeling about the latest lockdown and school closures?
First and foremost, it is absolutely right that decisions are taken to ensure the health, wellbeing and safety of all is safeguarded as much as possible and clearly the information which we all see every evening from the medical experts, scientists and politicians shows us that the situation is going to get tough.
From the perspective of schools and the wider educational sector, I believe that we have two key roles to play; firstly, using our experiences of previous lockdowns and a turbulent first term littered with isolation bubbles, we can ensure that our ability to switch a remote learning platform goes to the next level and the quality of intervention, teaching and learning is better again and secondly, we must ensure that we support the mental and physical wellbeing of our students, parents, staff and wider communities alike.
We have to ensure that every child is not lost in the panic and chaos and that the educational and pastoral needs of every child continues to be met.
How will the latest lockdown affect the Progress Schools community?
Following the initial announcement by the Education Secretary that non-exam year groups would be taught remotely upon the return this week, we were putting the messages out to our students, parents and staff that as all of our students are considered vulnerable, we will be remaining open and operating in the usual COVID-secure way for all students and all year groups. However, following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday evening, some parents and carers were understandably reluctant to allow their child to attend school so we quickly ensured that a remote programme of learning was readily accessible.
I am sure that I speak for all leaders across the wider sector but I could not be prouder of the efforts of the Progress Schools team in distributing laptops, food parcels, planning an online programme and face-to-face programme of lessons in the space of 24 hours – and that is without training and getting ready to be able to test staff and students who may be asymptomatic from next week!
How will it impact both younger and older students in your care?
All of our students have varying levels of SEND and/or SEMH needs so clearly, they will be impacted in very different ways. However, it is clear that many of our students and staff have either been affected, or have loved ones who have been affected by the virus, and clearly this creates a level of stress and anxiety that we must support and manage.
The difficulty as we move forwards will be around safeguarding of vulnerable young people who may be greater risk of neglect or harm, ensuring that momentum of engagement in meaningful education is maintained and ensuring that we ensure that this period doesn’t significantly impact their life opportunities into the future. We have to continue to give them hope, inspiration and an inner belief that we will return to a pre-COVID way of living and that their potential to achieve has not been lost as a result of the pandemic.