I love September. Torbay seems to look even more beautiful at this time of year; the coolness of the autumnal air is descending upon us and with it, brings new beginnings.

New beginnings seem to be incredibly apt right now. This week heralds the return to school for thousands of children across the country.

A new academic year but also a ‘new normal’ – school is not the same as it was in six months ago, and we must question whether it will be ever be.

The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown is an unprecedented situation in modern times. It is hard to gauge the full impact that the situation has had on children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Pupils’ experiences of the lockdown period will have been very varied. For some, it will mostly have been a safe and enjoyable time. For others, it will have been challenging or traumatic.

Schools and teachers are used to supporting their pupils through challenges that they face in life – the current situation will amplify those situations many times over.

On Friday, March 20, three days before the establishment of nationwide lockdown, schools across England were closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Only vulnerable children and children of critical workers were allowed to remain in school from that period.

Some year groups were temporarily allowed back for brief periods before the summer break – but most children have remained at home, doing remote learning with the help of parents and carers.

Throughout the summer the Government has been insistent that the biggest priority for the autumn is getting children back to school, even if that meant closing or other locations to stem the virus’ spread.

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield had said the reopening of schools ‘should be prioritised’, insisting they must be first to reopen and last to close during any restriction plans.

September is now upon us; we’re nine months into a year that has been like no other. To me, it still feels like March – where has this year gone?

his week, it has been wonderful seeing my social media full of children’s smiling faces, beaming with pride, as they stand proudly in their school uniform ready to begin the new term.

It seems extraordinary that most of these children and young people have not been in education since March.

While we know that a large number of families have continued to ensure, in some way, that their children have not missed out, we know that the aftermath of missing learning will have long-lasting effects; academically, emotionally and socially on a substantial number of children in our community.

At the beginning of 2020, it was estimated that 6,000 were currently living in poverty, in Torbay alone.

As we continue to navigate through these unprecedented times, we are aware unemployment will continue to rise in Torbay.

There isn’t any current data on poverty and deprivation, but we know that this figure has and will continue to increase.

Children and young people returning to school will ease the pressure off many families.

RE4orm has spent the last six months supporting families in need with hot meals and food packages, hoping to in some way, to ease the financial pressure.

There seems to be a new-found respect for all those in the teaching profession, and the complexity of what working in education entails.

It would be remiss to underestimate the impact of the role education staff play in society. Teachers are not just teachers; they’re social workers, parents, nurses, police officers. They are needed and offer a vital lifeline to so many.

Having worked in education for the last 15 years, I know the enormity of the work ahead, but I also know how phenomenal these teams are, how they will ensure every child achieves and that every child is safe.