How one Wigan school prepared for pupils' return

Standish Community High School (CHS) welcomed Wigan Today through its doors to show how much work has been done ahead of the return to in-person teaching.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 11:03 am

As pupils across the borough headed back into the classroom on Monday a leading councillor also joined headteachers in trying to reassure parents still concerned about Covid-19 safety in schools.

Standish CHS has opted for a phased return, something headteacher Lindsay Barker says is being done at other high schools in Wigan and Leigh as well, and has an elaborate system of testing and keeping year bubbles separate.

However, Wigan Council portfolio holder for children and families Coun Jenny Bullen acknowledged there are still parents out there concerned and urged them to get in touch with their children’s school.

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Senior staff at Standish CHS in the testing centre set up in the sports hall

At Standish years seven and 11 are back in the classroom today, having been tested on Friday.

Years eight and 10 are getting tested today ahead of a Tuesday return, when the lateral flow tests will be administered to year nines.

All pupils will then have to be tested twice more in school. After that they will receive home testing kits.

On Friday pupils had to follow a strict one-way system to a music room where they were located on the computer before the testing was done in the school sports hall.

Wigan Community Lettings staff have been retrained to do testing

Staff from Wigan Community Lettings, which normally sorts out facilities bookings for evenings and weekends, have been retrained and have thrown themselves with enthusiasm into their new roles.

Once in school pupils stay in their bubbles, with their own yards, separate canteen slots and even pop-up libraries where books ordered online are delivered.

The teachers move from classroom to classroom and must stay within a two-metre box marked out on the floor. Once they are in the box they can, if they wish, remove their mask, but must put it back on if they step out of the marked area.

The school says it also keeps all the windows open to ensure ventilation.

Standish CHS has converted into sports hall into a Covid-19 testing centre

Mrs Barker praised the efforts by everyone at Standish to be ready for today but also reminded anyone nervous about coming back that the set-up is the same as the one that was in place before the latest national lockdown.

She said: “The staff have been amazing, so flexible and supportive. There is a real positivity around the pupils returning, staff are looking forward to having face-to-face lessons again.

“The remote learning has been brilliant but it’s just not the same.

“I know the pupils are looking forward to being together for friendships, walking to school and eating lunch together.

Assistant head Paul Blakemore in a classroom with a box for the teacher

“It’s not like we’re starting again. In our weekly bulletins we’ve been reminding people they are returning to the known, not the unknown. We’ve had extra communication with anyone feeling anxious, both pupils and staff.”

Wigan Council cabinet member for children and families Coun Jenny Bullen also sought to allay any concerns while also reiterating the benefits of going back to in-person lessons.

She said: “I do appreciate that this still remains an uncertain time for some families and we want to encourage those families to speak to their school or where appropriate their social or support worker as soon as possible so that we can help to reassure them and ensure that our children return their education settings.

“All of our parents, carers and guardians are receiving letters advising them of the return to school process and any extra measures they should follow.

“We hope this provides reassurance that our schools are committed to ensuring their premises are safe environments.

“I am fully aware that the impact over the last 12 months on our children and young people has been considerable, but we know that with the right support, they will continue to be resilient and will have a really positive experience returning to school if they haven’t done so already.

“We need to ensure that our current year 11 and year 13 students who have again experienced significant disruption and disappointment in the cancelling of exams this year, to continue to engage with their studies to make sure they secure the best results through teacher assessments which will lead on to more positive opportunities in their future.

“We would again like to thank our schools, colleges and child care providers and their teams on doing such a fantastic job on a daily basis despite the challenges that the pandemic has presented to them on both in professional and personal terms.

“We would also like to thank our families for their continued patience and cooperation.”

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