‘Thank you’ to West Sussex school staff, children and parents

As we approach the end of the summer term, I have been reflecting on the uncertainties that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused for our school children, their parents, carers and school staff.

Nigel Jupp, West Sussex County Council's cabinet member for education and skills

My children are in their thirties now but thinking back to when they were at school, I don’t envy parents and carers currently trying to balance work responsibilities with children’s home learning support.

I am sure many children will have found it difficult to concentrate on learning at home as well as being away from their friends for over three months. Of course, some children have been back to school which will have helped but even for them, I’m sure they have missed being part of the wider school community.

I am all too aware that for some children the pandemic may have caused additional worries and concerns. Being away from friends and not in the routine that school provides will have undoubtedly affected some young people.

During the past few months county council officers have been working with the schools in order to provide them with guidance and tools to support children and their families and carers and help them manage these unusual circumstances.

Having kept in close contact with a number of headteachers during this pandemic, I appreciate that many of them and their colleagues and governors have been working flat out since March in order to meet their children’s needs.

During the Easter holidays and the recent half term, many did not take any time off so that they could keep their schools open for key worker and vulnerable children.

The response of our West Sussex school staff is another fine example of the community spirit that we have seen throughout the county since the beginning of the pandemic. I am extremely grateful and most appreciative of everything that our school staff have done for their pupils. As such, I hope that they will all enjoy their much-needed break during the summer months.

As we look ahead to September, it is welcome news that the Government has decided that all children will be able to return to school. Each school is different and there will now be a lot of detailed planning by school leaders and governors to prepare for the safe return of their children. This will be no mean feat and the county council will continue to be in regular contact with schools to help and support them through this process.

Some children will no doubt have mixed emotions about returning to school in September, particularly those starting at a new school. Many will be excited about moving onto the next stage of their educational journey whilst understandably others will be a little more cautious.

However, our school staff are highly experienced in managing a whole range of feelings and I know that they will do all they can to welcome and reassure, not only their new pupils, but also those returning for a new academic year.

So, as schools prepare to take a summer break, I wanted to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all children, parents and carers, headteachers, teaching and support staff, governors and everyone connected with West Sussex schools. All of you have just been through an extremely challenging and difficult few months. However, you have risen to the challenge and you should be justifiably proud of everything you have achieved.

I wish you all a very happy, healthy and safe summer break.