Chesterfield headteachers speak of ‘positive’ return to school amid new advice on Covid testing and face masks
Pupils across Chesterfield have been adjusting to taking Covid tests before lessons and wearing face masks in class, as schools reopened this week following the Christmas holidays.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi set out the updated measures for secondary schools at the beginning of the new year amid soaring Covid-19 infection rates fuelled by the Omicron variant.
He also insisted that face-to-face teaching would remain the norm as many schools raised concerns over staff shortages, suggesting that classes could be merged and taught together where absences could not be covered.
In Derbyshire, schools reopened their doors on Monday, January 10 – a week after the majority of others across England.
Speaking of the first day back Keith Hirst, headteacher of Chesterfield’s Brookfield Community School on Chatsworth Road, said it had been “extremely postive” adding that the new measures on mask wearing and tests had been “embraced” by all at the school.
He said: “Despite the current challenges we face, our first day back has been extremely positive with over 95 per cent student attendance.
"Covid testing of students took place last Friday to minimise the impact on learning which has really helped to ensure we hit the ground running today. Students and staff are in good spirits after the Christmas break and looking forward to the term and the months ahead.
"The new rule on face coverings, although a recommendation rather than a requirement, has been embraced by both students and staff, and the overall feeling in school, is one of looking forward with real optimism to the year ahead.”
Steve Roberts, lead principal at Outwood Academy Newbold and Outwood Academy Hasland Hall, also described the return as ‘positive’ with both schools only having to deal with low staff absence rates.
He said: "It was brilliant to welcome our students back after the holidays. Despite the ongoing uncertainty, there was a positive feeling across the Outwood schools in Chesterfield.
"It is a sign of the times that students wearing masks was not seen as a big deal around the school, and with that guidance now back in place the students simply showed their ability to adapt and carry on as normal.
"It is a credit to them and to our wider academy community for their ongoing patience and we want to thank them as we navigate our way together through these difficult times. We truly are very thankful to our parent and carer community for their strong support and understanding with testing and masks.
"Despite Outwood Academy Newbold and Outwood Academy Hasland Hall having to deal with a small number of absences, both in terms of staff and students, however nothing so significant that any closures were necessary, 2022 has started brightly and we are excited about what is to come."
All school staff and pupils in secondary schools across England are being asked to take two lateral flow tests a week.
Currently, secondary school pupils are also being encouraged to were face masks in classrooms as well as in communal areas – a measure which is set to be reviewed on January 26.