‘I’m so proud of them’

Northumberland teacher Sam Connor has been sharing how things went last week when many students returned to school following a period of home learning as a result of the latest coronavirus lockdown.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 5:27 pm
Sam Connor, who has been writing a diary for the #BeatCovidNE campaign.

The associate assistant headteacher at King Edward VI School, in Morpeth, has been outlining life during the pandemic as part of the #BeatCovidNE campaign. He is married to Natalie and has three young children – Lucah, seven, Raphael, six, and Rocco, three.

The 33-year-old said: “It’s been a busy and great first week back to school. Our school took a staggered approach in welcoming back each year group to allow for a thorough testing regime. This has helped everyone ease back in.

“The past few days have been a positive shock to the system for everyone. Adjusting to new routines and ways of working, but there is a huge sense of relief.

“I know it might sound cheesy, but it’s great to have everyone back. Classrooms were full of chatter for the first few lessons as students and teachers caught up with one another. There’s a positive buzz across the school.

“I’m so proud of all the students for remaining positive after such a challenging year. Especially our exam year groups, years 13 and 11, they’ve come back with real enthusiasm to show their teachers just what they’re capable of. They’re a real credit to themselves and the school.

“Spirits are high as everyone has months of stories and experiences to share. In anticipation of this, our school has encouraged students to reconnect, every student has a tutor who supports them on a pastoral level and our team of counsellors are always available to speak to. The same goes for staff.

“As teachers, it has felt like the 1st of September but without the summer break. It’s been a strange shift, but one we’re all grateful for. It’s great to see colleagues face-to-face once again, to check-in with them and support each other as we all return to classroom teaching.

“No matter how well you plan, there’s no knowing what is going to happen when 1,500 teenagers return to school. It has been a complex process. Thankfully, so far everything is going well thanks to support from students and their families.

“Their support is crucial as we move forward with students carrying out rapid Covid-19 tests. At our school, all staff are also self-testing at home twice a week to help everyone feel safe and detect any asymptomatic cases.

“We’ve been able to demonstrate how the lateral flow test works to show students how simple the steps are and to ensure they feel confident carrying it out themselves.

“They are all curious, which is great, but we have warned them the test might cause a few watery eyes and runny noses – although it’s nothing to worry about.

“At home, Lucah and Raphael have been bouncing back from school each night this week. At their age, their big focus is seeing their friends and they’re over the moon to be back with them.

“School is different for them as they’ve been put into class bubbles. Within each bubble, the school has paired a key-worker school learner with an at-home learner so they can support each other, which is a great idea.

“This week has made me realise just how adaptable we all are. One year ago, no-one could have predicted the pandemic, the adversity we’d all face, the amazing advances with the vaccines and that 12 months on, we’d be taking steps to ease out of lockdown. It’s incredible.

“I never thought that I’d have to deliver the A-level or GCSE curriculum virtually. It wasn’t the ideal scenario, but it was possible.

“While there’s still a long way to go, I feel we can all draw from our experiences and our ability to adapt, problem solve creatively and use our resilience to face whatever comes next. We can grow stronger from this and help create a better future.”