While the country is in lockdown, Humshaugh Church of England First School, Northumberland remains open operating with a small team of staff to keep the school running for those children who absolutely need to attend. Pupil numbers in school are very low and some days there are as few as three pupils attending, so the main hall has been adapted into a classroom to keep everyone together but has plenty of space for pupils and staff to spread out and keep to social distancing.
We caught up with Headteacher Jude Long on Monday and she said: It still feels very strange to be in such a changed school without the sound of children throughout, but the three who are in today are full of giggles and chatter, which is lovely to hear.
Pupils in school are set the same work as those undertaking home schooling, so after an initial chat about their weekends, the children settle down to work through their tasks. The school day is time-tabled to help maintain a basic routine but in the glorious sunny weather they have been enjoying extended breaks outside in the school yard, building dens and whizzing round the yard on scooters.
While pupils are busy, staff carry out tasks preparing home learning packs for the next summer half term, working on the assumption at this stage that school will not have resumed, and also carrying out their usual planning for September.
Teachers working from home remain connected to the school and collaborate on which resources to use across the three school classes for home-schooling for the next half term.Small staff meetings still take place and give the opportunity for staff to catch-up and support one another.Jude says It is nice to see some other adults and I am thankful for my small team.
The Head keeps in touch with parents with weekly updates emphasising the importance of open communication saying I feel it's really important to be proactive in keeping in touch with our parents, to offer support and guidance, remind them that we are all still a school community and to encourage them to come to me with any queries or concerns.
Jude is a teaching head, so as well as her administrative duties, shes been providing learning support to her Year 3 and 4 home school pupils through email and telephone calls, and she plans to give her leavers the send-off they deserve:
Looking ahead, the school is very conscious of the important milestones that Year 4 pupils will be missing if school doesn't resume before they are due to move to middle school and we are making plans to still celebrate these pupils and their time at the school, with plans to bring them all back together in the autumn term to put on a Leaver's Service or show, even if that means coming together on Saturday mornings to rehearse.
The school day ends at 3pm and the pupils and staff head home to be with their own families. Jude reflects: While these are difficult times for us all in many ways, I am grateful for the extra time together as a family and the reminder to appreciate the many blessings that we have.
Diocesan Director of Education, Paul Rickeard shows his appreciation for the work of staff in all Durham and Newcastle dioceses Church of England schools, saying:
Im proud of all of our headteachers and staff who are working hard to meet the challenges presented by this difficult situation. I thank them for their commitment to keeping schools open for the children of key workers, and for their dedication in supporting those children at home.
I am working with my team to understand how we can manage the safe return of a greater volume of children to our schools over the coming weeks and months.