Heartening to see organisations and communities pulling together once again

Cute little elementary schoolgirl doing origami fish with folded color paper looking video on laptop

The education sector has also done a fabulous job of supporting parents, carers and pupils following the last-minute announcements about school closures. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Entering the second week of the lockdown, it is fortunate that we have comparatively low levels of infection in Torbay which means that when the virus starts to be supressed it should have a lower level to come down from.

This virus, particularly the new variant, is still a very real threat and we want to prevent it from taking hold in the Bay.

Our NHS in the South West is particularly fragile due to an historic lack of investment from Westminster in our local health services.

This latest lockdown will cause more challenges for many people.

We know how important it is for local businesses to access the support that is there for them and the council has been working as quickly as it can to get the necessary procedures in place to enable this to happen.

We know that the delay between the Government’s announcements on grants and the ability to access them can be frustrating for many, but the frustration in being the administrator of these funds is that the Government announces them for businesses but doesn’t provide local authorities with guidance on how to distribute the grants until days after the announcement.

It is heartening to see organisations and communities pulling together once again to help protect the most vulnerable in the Bay.

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There is lots of support out there; the Shielding Hub has been set up again and support continues to be provided by the Torbay Help Hub and the Torbay Food Alliance.

The education sector has also done a fabulous job of supporting parents, carers and pupils following the last-minute announcements about school closures.

Hope is on the horizon and a vaccine is now being rolled out across Devon, but for now we must continue to do all we can to prevent  further spread so we can move towards a brighter future.

A few months ago I became the acting chair of governors for Burton Academy.

The students of this school are among the most vulnerable in Torbay. It is an alternative education provision for 11 to 16-year-olds whose needs cannot be met in mainstream education.

The support the school provides and the positive impact it has on these students’ lives cannot be overestimated.

In 2018, a series of building improvements took place at the academy, but the upgrade was surprisingly controversial.

Some people argued that the improvements would be wasted on a group of young people who, they thought, would respond with indifference or vandalism.

There had been similar resistance when a uniform was introduced. The views were that students at an alternative provision would not want to wear their school's logo on a shirt or sweatshirt and would feel stigmatised.

But the academy believes that all of this misses the point.

Every child wants to belong somewhere, and every child aspires to be the best version of themselves that they can be.

With many of the young people at The Burton Academy, the issue isn't a lack of aspiration to belong and to succeed; it's a lack of access to people and places that model the possibilities.

If you've never seen something, it's incredibly difficult to imagine it, and it's almost impossible to become it.

So a uniform was introduced and changes were made to the learning environment with new doors, corner sofas and newly painted walls.

In the 12 months that followed there were huge improvements. Attendance increased, as did the average number of qualifications achieved by learners.

Lateness, expenditure on repairs, staff absence and incidents of serious misbehaviour all reduced.

Two years later, there hasn’t been a single incident of vandalism or graffiti on the school site.

Pupils have what they deserve: good people, a good place and a real sense of purpose. 

It’s so important to believe in the potential of young people so they can believe in themselves. 

This is reflected in the African proverb: “A child that is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.”