Welcome to my last blog of 2020, what an extraordinary 12 months it has been, a year that no one will ever forget. Before COVID, our Camden schools were all good and outstanding, decent educational outcomes and safeguarding our young people a key priority, however over the last 10 months our schools have adapted and occupied the space to provide compassionate community leadership. It would be too easy to simply list the challenges and negatives of the last year, we can recognise them, but where there have been obstacles, our schools have collaborated and thought laterally around the problems to ensure that the needs and safety of their pupils and families have taken priority.

I visited some schools in Somers Town this week and I saw first-hand the impressive safety arrangements put in place; in Maria Fidelis there are strict protocols for pupils, staff and visitors alike; yet the core business of teaching and learning was carefully protected. It was an absolute joy popping into Edith Neville and seeing the happy and excited children using their beautiful new outside space, with a socially distanced, hula hoop session going on for all the classes (and staff after school!). I visited Gary Moore at Regent High School, where we walked around the school to observe the arrangements put in place to organise year group bubbles and manage the movement of students around the school. RHS has 70% FSM pupils and when we visited the school restaurant for lunch, it was not lost on me the impressive range and variety available on the menu for students and staff. It reminded me of the amazing work at Rhyl for example, who are doing their up most to support asylum seeking children and ensure that they are fed and clothed; thanks to tenacious leadership from the head and other colleagues across Camden. You will have received the arrangements and details for distributing the food vouchers next week (details were in the tea time bulletin on Friday), we are very grateful to schools for being the point of contact and distribution of the food vouchers over the next school week, it is much appreciated.

It has been a year where young people have spoken passionately about their feelings including Black Lives Matter and the importance of promoting good mental health; as well as expressing their frustration over the lack of social equity and the unfairness in lost learning, not having a device to do their online learning and a quiet space to study. We in Camden have embraced the challenge, setting up a Crowdfunded scheme to raise money for devices which raised over £60k; as well as all the work schools have undertaken to provide their own stock. With the explosion of resources for online learning and the emerging development of what constitutes effective online pedagogy, we are reminded that the best place for catch up and good mental health is actually being in school. Schools never closed, during lock down part one, they remained open for vulnerable pupils and pupils of key workers, schools worked tirelessly with our amazing social care partners in keeping all young people and vulnerable families visible, providing food packages, books, advice, guidance and care.

Hopefully, you will have seen the arrangements from PH for tracking and tracing, where schools have been be asked by the DfE to help trace contacts of pupils and staff, who test positive for the first six days of the Christmas holidays. However, I do hope that over the Christmas period all our school staff are able to find the time to rest, recuperate and reflect back on their contributions; although not always acknowledged by the government, it is recognised and appreciated and I would like to thank you on behalf of every one at Camden Learning and the Council, for all you have done-we are very proud of our schools. Merry Christmas.

Jon Abbey

Managing Director of Camden Learning

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