'Back where we belong and even closer together for the future'

Children back in class after Covid lockdown

Back where they belong - Credit: Barton Hill Academy

“My daughter was so excited to get back into school today that it only took one call to wake her up; normally it takes loads.”

The comments were typical of many at the school gates.

The sun shone resolutely as we welcomed an unusually brave generation of children back to class – hopefully for good - bringing the events of the past year full circle from March 2020, when primary and secondary schools closed.

We had been drawing up innovative plans weeks before in anticipation of the 'opening' announcement. The mood in school was one of determination.

At Barton Hill Academy, we feel privileged to work in a culture of high expectation where relationships between the school and  the families we serve are particularly strong.

One of the many communications we received from our parents thanked us for ‘our tenacity and passion’. We reciprocate that respect for the support we have had from them in partnership.

Another remarked how our Principal Christopher Taylor was always so positive. I can say with conviction that this positivity percolates through the academy and is a tangible feature in every classroom.

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It is vital that all staff and pupils believe that by working together with a shared vision, they can make a difference – and I believe we do.

A further message received today: “I can’t express in words what you have done for me and my daughter with daily check-ups."

Children back in school after Covid lockdown

Children with a spring in their step - Credit: Barton Hill Academy

We knew that throughout lockdown, if we were going to continue as an engine of opportunity in our community then our provision would need to be world beating to mitigate the challenges.

This meant that we shared a hunger to discover just what was possible in the virtual world for our special community, how we could push our limits to deliver the very best, which was what our families deserved. We had to make learning irresistible.

A staggering 280 Chromebooks were delivered into the community by teachers, teaching assistants, admin staff and whoever else was available to support.

Our irrepressible pupils engaged to such an incredible extent that it was overwhelming.

Over 92 per cent in both lockdowns trail blazed in an environment where our staff broadcast daily live interactive online lessons both within our school and in some instances nationally, across the whole AET academy chain.

Solutions to teaching in a virtual world were innovated quickly to enable children to receive feedback just as if they were in class where indeed some still were – ‘school closure’ being an ill-suited term for the resilient children of our phenomenal key workers.

Staff worked in rotas to support the considerable numbers of children in school whilst also maintaining channels of communication by making daily well-being calls home to families.

Meanwhile, those staff based at home delivered a full timetable that featured live assemblies, a full curriculum with live lessons, online support ‘hangout’ surgeries and class meets to enable children to see their friends, from whom they were isolated socially.

It seemed unlikely, but if anything, the separation has brought the community even closer together.

Both the children and we have learned many things along the way. The innovation has been such that Barton Hill Academy has been invited to present at the prestigious World Education Summit at the end of this month.

Nevertheless, nothing beats working face to face with the children and the laughter and joy of being together once again in classrooms was special.

Mum and children at school gates as schools opem

At the school gates and raring to go - Credit: Barton Hill Academy

The return to physical school is an opportunity to do what we love best.

We relish the struggle of learning and perhaps when it is more of a struggle we relish it even more.

The anticipation of working face to face and alongside these unique cohorts is hugely exciting and will help us to cherish the relationships with our community to an even greater degree as we discover what’s possible in partnership with our big hearted pupils.