Peterborough schools return ‘very smooth’ with few Covid cases

The return of all pupils into Peterborough’s classrooms has gone “really smoothly’ with few cases of coronavirus, according to the city’s head of education.
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Jonathan Lewis said pupil attendance rates were at 92 per cent on Monday - close to the national average - while for vulnerable pupils Peterborough was ahead of the national rate.

There were also fewer than 10 cases of coronavirus on Wednesday across Peterborough and Cambridgeshire, while pupils eligible for free school meals will on March 26 receive £30 meal vouchers for the upcoming two week Easter break as part of the Winter Grant Scheme.

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Reflecting on how city schools have fared since all pupils returned on March 8, Mr Lewis, who is service director for education in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire, said: “I’m pleased with how everything’s gone. It’s been very smooth.

Lime Academy AbbotsmedeLime Academy Abbotsmede
Lime Academy Abbotsmede

“This reflects the hard work heads and staff have put in before the first day of reopening.

“We’re keeping a close eye on attendance figures which are very strong and around the national average, but it’s hard to conclude anything yet.

“For vulnerable pupils - those with an EHCP or social workers, it’s slightly above the national average. We’ve managed to get them in and it’s now about supporting children with recovery time, mental health and friendship groups.

“But overall I think it’s gone really smoothly.

“Testing has gone well and we’ve had lots of engagement.

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“Cases wise we saw numbers creep up, but it seems to be declining now. In Peterborough and Cambridgeshire on Wednesday there were less than 10 cases which is significantly lower than December.

“At the moment it’s been really positive.”

Mr Lewis said one of the challenges has been for vulnerable children and children of key workers who remained in school during lockdown and were used to having more attention of the teachers, a trend also noted by Lee Dobson, the headteacher at Lime Academy Abbotsmede in Eastfield.

Describing how the return of all pupils has been, he said: “It’s always challenging but we’ve been through the process a couple of times now and we’ve had a lot of support form our trust and the local authority.

“When children returned to school last time they had the summer break in between. This time, in terms of remote learning that’s really improved over the course of the year and the expectations of the remote learning, but when we returned it was part way through a term which was a challenge.

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“The staff have found it really tiring and relentless. They’ve gone from teaching children remotely and smaller bubble sizes, and now they have all children back.

“We’ve had to really consider children returning and those who were in school the whole time. They’ve been used to smaller class sizes and more attention.

“But the first Monday back school felt really busy and vibrant. The message to staff has been, when children came back use your judgement, think about the children, where they are and what they need. Provide a balance.

“In September we’d planned two weeks of wellbeing activity. We found after one week they were pleased to be back.

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“My message was go by the children. We’ve done lots of PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic education), lots of discussion, yoga activities and mindfulness. I said teach the curriculum, but if you find they’re struggling judge that and change if you need to.

“Through lockdown and in school we do a lot of wellbeing work. The staff have done mental health awareness training and wellbeing weeks and we have a wellbeing lead at school.

“The pupils are closely monitored by teachers, support staff and the senior leadership team. We have constant discussions and worry boxes in school, so if they have anything they want to discuss it’s checked regularly.

“On the whole, in September and in the return in March, you can tell on the first day they’re happy to be back with their friends and socialising.

“As I stood on the playground one child said to me: ‘I’m so excited to be back at school!’”