Lead in: Schools across Torbay are contemplating a return to albeit smaller classrooms after weeks of lockdown, including the Torquay Academy. But for principal Steve Margetts and his team it has been pretty much full on despite the gates being closed to most pupils. Steve explains why here: “On Wednesday March 18, I was sat in my office watching Boris Johnson’s press conference as there was speculation that an announcement would be made about schools. The Prime Minister announced that all schools would shut for an indefinite period at the end of that Friday in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19. We were told that the summer’s exams would not take place and students would get the qualifications they need. The first thing the following morning I met with our Year 11 and 13 students to explain to them what I knew about the cancellation of their examinations. There was a great deal of upset as they had all worked so hard for so many years and they felt they would not get the opportunity to demonstrate this in their exams. We managed to arrange a great Fun Friday for these students to celebrate what would be their last day of school. The headlines in the media suggest that schools are closed. The reality is very different here at Torquay Academy and other schools in the Bay. We remain open and the staff continue working to teach and care for the children of key workers and our vulnerable students. We remained open every day over the Easter holidays, including weekends and the bank holidays, to ensure that parents could continue to carry out their essential roles in our community. We had to establish new ways of teaching and communicating with our students. Every morning we send an email to every pupil with a welcome message and their work for the day. This is a mixture of video lessons, online activities, learning about the wider world and enrichment activities. To ensure all children are able to access learning at home we have purchased many 4G routers and lent hundreds of laptops. We call home every week to check on the wellbeing of our students. We know these unprecedented times have caused great difficulties for many, we have distributed over 600 food parcels to our families and our school counsellors maintain contact with the students they work with. When we closed, we delivered over 500 pairs of safety glasses and plastic funnels to Torbay Hospital to provide PPE and equipment that was in short supply. During the Easter period, I had a number of discussions with the NHS about how we could support them further. In order to fight the Covid-19, they have ordered millions of pounds of new equipment to be used in hospitals, surgeries and pharmacies across South Devon. We agreed that the NHS could use our Sports Hall as a distribution hub where new equipment can be delivered, commissioned and tested prior to being sent out across the area. Torbay’s Head Teachers have been meeting virtually along with colleagues from the Local Authority and Public Health to ensure that we are safeguarding the young Torbay as best as we possibly can given the circumstances we are all working in. When we do come back it seems likely that there will be some element of a phased return, perhaps with certain year groups coming back only on particular days. We have been promised that we will be given time to plan for students and staff to return to a safe environment. I would like to thank our wonderful staff, students, parents and carers for their support during this challenging time.