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Return saw a palpable sense of relief, says Mellis headteacher

A headteacher has thanked parents for their overwhelming support after seeing 92 per cent of eligible children return to school.

Paul Ryle, from Mellis Primary School, said a fantastic team effort and can-do attitude had contributed to the high return of reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils since the start of June.

He said: “The challenge was to build the necessary confidence amongst colleagues and the families of the school to allow a safe and confident return.

Head teacher Paul Ryle with headgirl Millie Albery and headboy Max Norton. Picture: Mark Bullimore.
Head teacher Paul Ryle with headgirl Millie Albery and headboy Max Norton. Picture: Mark Bullimore.

“Working with our governors, the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocesan Multi-Academy Trust and, above all, with the good will and proactivity of all my colleagues, we managed to put together a plan that seems to have met with the support of the families that we serve.

“I would like to thank them for their support in getting us over that initial psychological ‘hump’ of reopening.”

The school has been open throughout lockdown for children from 17 key worker households, as well as operating a virtual school through its online learning platform.

Since the return of eligible pupils, the school has continued to provide daily online education for Years 2 to 5, as well as weekly live online lessons.

Teacher Gemma Gray said: “We have had a really high take-up of the learning platform and, because we are able to see and comment on work that has been done, we can see the very positive impact that this has had during this challenging time.

“The live online lessons that we have been recently doing have also been great in rebuilding that sense of class community.’

In the school itself, the positive impact of children being able to mix and socialise with their peers again has also been noticeable.

“Their confidence in coming back to school has been frankly astounding,” said Mr Ryle. “There seemed to be a palpable sense of relief to see their friends and teachers, and to be back in familiar surroundings.

“School isn’t just about the learning; it’s about being with your peers, having a sense of structure and all those things we so often take for granted.”

The next step for the Yaxley Road school is to prepare for all of its pupils returning in September.

Deputy headteacher Kelly Floyd said: “The school is acutely aware that the majority of Year 2, 3, 4 and 5 children will not have been in school for more than 20 weeks by the time September comes.

“We will continue to support them virtually to make their return as smooth as possible. With the confidence having been built in the last half-term, we believe that we have a solid foundation amongst our families for the critical, wider reopening.’

To assist the Government with this key decision, the school has been taking part in a weekly Public Health England swabbing project of staff and pupils.

Being one of only three schools in Suffolk and one of 104 in England to be chosen, the project’s aim is to build a picture of the virus in the school population and shape how schools will manage the return of all pupils at the end of the summer holidays.

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