Read Sunderland head's wonderful message to pupils, parents and staff as schools prepare to reopen on Monday

John Howe is headteacher at Seaburn Dene Primary School.

Saturday, 6th March 2021, 12:00 am
John Howe, Headteacher of Seaburn Dene Primary School. Picture: David Wood/University of Sunderland.

Ahead of pupils returning to classrooms on Monday, he has written about how much he is looking forward to welcoming children back into school.

And he also has a special message for staff, parents, grandparents and carers...

“The wider re-opening of our school is the first real chink of light emerging from a long, dark night - alongside the remarkable vaccine rollout and the gradual easing of restrictions for everyone. Now, we can embrace some thoughts of normality returning throughout Spring and Summer at Seaburn Dene Primary School.

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Seaburn Dene Primary School headteacher John Howe.

Like everyone probably reading this, I can’t really put into words how much I have missed my wider family and friends, like we all have. I count among them, our extended school family here at school, who provide the bustle, the energy, the smiles and the seemingly eternal question, “how long until dinner time!”

Clearly. I’m really looking forward to seeing all our children again, as opposed to seeing them on various Googlemeets, where I won’t miss, pointing out.. again, “You’re camera doesn’t seem to be working.”

Despite the hopeful news we are seeing, each day, many of us are still struggling with the time we are living through. I’m sure the vast majority of parents are eagerly anticipating next Monday’ return for all children. But life is still tough. So our message to our parents is a simple one: look after yourself and lean into us, if you need our support or are concerned about someone. To paraphrase Year 2, in the words of their adopted song (by Harry Styles), our aim is to…Treat People With Kindness.

It has been a busy few weeks with the constant flurry of announcements on schools reopening, with schools like ours it is about ensuring our parents get the right messages about how we will get their children into to school safely in the coming weeks and months.

That’s our main priority. As a father-of-two, I see on a daily basis, how important it is to get my children back safely, as much for their education as for their mental wellbeing.

I am also aware, in the absence of any specific vaccination programme for our dedicated and selfless school staff, that we must take the safety of our amazing team, extremely seriously. Throughout this whole pandemic – a year – they have been coming into school and every member of staff has been in Seaburn Dene, since 4 January.

As headteacher, all our staff – particularly the teachers I have the pleasure of working with, have been truly exceptional. They’ve gone well above and beyond to make this (and previous) lockdowns work. They have upskilled themselves, engaged and educated children, checked in with families, while juggling their own personal worries and the needs of the children who were accessing school at the same time. I

t’s those core characteristics of resilience, a positive mindset and adaptability which make great teachers, and that’s never been more apparent than it is now. As we move into a new phase and see the return of all pupils, we’re going to face different challenges. It’s therefore reassuring to be reminded that our teachers are so wonderful, and I know that they will make it a huge success.

At Seaburn Dene, we frequently tell the children how good they are – but I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the adults, at home.

That’s mums, dads, carers, grandparents. Who have:

Home taught for six weeks Learned how to use Google Classroom Dug deep and remembered the maths and English lessons from when they were at school. Laugh, cried and something in between. Felt proud and frustrated Done their very best.

Well done! Keeping our community connected is the key. We are in this together, but this time around, there is an end in sight.

So from Monday, it’s a continuation of staggered start and finishes, group bubbles, messages around hygiene, safety and wellbeing, more cleaning, face coverings, play and being together again. Above all, it will be a warm welcome back.

We expect and will be prepared for many pupils to find the transition back to school quite challenging – whether they have been learning remotely since the beginning of January or they have been in school throughout, as part of a very small class. It will be a different experience for each child, affecting them in many different ways.

If September is anything to go by, our pupils will amaze us with how positively they will manage and embrace this transition. We will not, however, underestimate the impact that this second Lockdown and another partial school closure will have had upon our pupils and we will work hard to identify and meet their needs, acknowledging that this next period of recovery will be long lasting.

So we are really conscious that we will all be returning having had very different experiences of the time at home. Our teachers are all planning for a gentle start back into learning at school - with plenty of opportunity for chatting with friends, working together and being active, creative and being outside (weather permitting.)

But above all we are very excited to welcome all the children back.

And it is to them and every other child across Sunderland that we need to say, how amazing they have been over the last 12 months and especially the past few weeks.

When they are older, maybe even as ‘old’ as me, I can guarantee that they will reflect on this time and whistfully tell their family all about ‘that year we couldn’t go to school’ and further explain to them about ‘Google Classroom’, ‘Class Dojo’ and ‘Teams’ a little like my dad did about his evacuation to North Yorkshire.

When thinking back to this time, I feel parents can also be confident that teachers have all shown how we can meet our own school’s individual values.

In our school, we often talk about respect, kindness, aspiration and determination and I feel that, although we have not managed to all be together as we would have liked, we have: children and adults alike, demonstrated these values in abundance.