Peter French, Deputy Diocesan Director of Education, brings us up-to-date with how our Church schools have coped (and continue to cope) with the effects of COVID-19.
Within the Diocese of Peterborough there are 103 Church of England schools. All of these have been open for all or part of the time since the lockdown occurred in March – either for key worker children and vulnerable children or, as schools have gradually opened up, to all children.
Our teachers, support staff and school leaders have done a fantastic job in ensuring that even when children have been at home, they have been supported. Most families had at least weekly contact with schools during the lockdown, and some of those that are vulnerable had much more contact. Schools also ensured that children’s spiritual health was looked after at home as well, with online collective worships and times of prayer, which has been much appreciated. In addition, there has been much practical help given, such as food parcels and vouchers that have been delivered. One headteacher personally went round to all of his free school meal children to ensure they had a food parcel on their doorstep.
Schools haven’t just been supporting their own children though, but have been working with the local communities they serve – supporting food banks, local charities and people who have been isolated in their own homes. We have heard stories of children working to support local charities and setting up virtual meet-ups to ensure people are not feeling alone. Church schools have also appreciated the pastoral support given to them by their local churches and clergy. It really has been a time where all have tried to work together to support one another.
Since September, schools have been back but have been coping with new realities of extra hand-cleaning and social distancing, and keeping children in “bubbles”. Most schools report that children have (on the whole) coped with this remarkably well and are really pleased to be back at school, learning and seeing their friends. Nonetheless, there have been more challenges to the home and in society, and our schools have worked hard to support the mental health and well-being of children and their families at this challenging time.
Our secondary schools have also had to cope with all of these issues, together with the challenges around the exam results and the heartache and difficulty that brought to young people who were looking to the future. But again our staff have stepped up and supported the young people with careers advice and also in appealing their exam results if necessary.
Our Church schools are part of our church community, and children and staff in these schools have really showed the value of God’s love in their communities. So thank you for all our schools have done – and please do continue to remember them in your prayers.
Revd Peter French
Deputy Diocesan Director of Education