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‘There have been tears’ – Students prepare to head home as school closures loom

PUBLISHED: 17:18 19 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:18 19 March 2020

All schools in Suffolk will close tomorrow. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

All schools in Suffolk will close tomorrow. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Archant

Schools across Suffolk are preparing to close down tomorrow in the hopes of containing the coronavirus outbreak - and thousands of students are getting ready to leave for an undetermined amount of time.

Kesgrave High School headteacher Nigel Burgoyne. Picture: SU ANDERSONKesgrave High School headteacher Nigel Burgoyne. Picture: SU ANDERSON

All students across primary, secondary and university education in the UK are heading home, except vulnerable children or those of key workers.

Nigel Burgoyne, headteacher at Kesgrave High School, said while he was exhausted from all of the planning, he was impressed by the mature way his sixth form pupils had handled their last days at school.

“It should be really happy time of them looking forward to prom and shirt signing and all of the celebration,” he said.

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Jenny Milsom, principal of One Sixth Form College in Ipswich Picture: ONE SIXTH FORM COLLEGEJenny Milsom, principal of One Sixth Form College in Ipswich Picture: ONE SIXTH FORM COLLEGE

“They’ve worked so hard for so long now and now they don’t know what is going to happen.

“It is confusing and incredibly stressful for them but I will say that they’ve handled this incredibly well in a mature way.”

He added: “There have been tears but they’ve all been amazing.”

Now that pupils are returning home, the burden of their education partially falls on their parents and carers.

Head Teacher Stephen Capper.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNHead Teacher Stephen Capper. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suzanne Day, from near Bury St Edmunds, has a five-year-old daughter and said she was a little afraid of the big move.

She said: “At the start of the week I realised it would be inevitable that the schools would have to close and was a bit scared of the prospect of having to try and teach my five-year-old at home. 
“When the announcement actually came yesterday I was surprised at how sad I felt for my daughter. She loves school and I know she will miss her friends and her teachers. 
“But I understand it is important that we try and keep as many people healthy as possible.”

Stephen Capper, headteacher at Beeches Community Primary in Ipswich, is focused on proving support for vulnerable children and those of ‘key workers’ and said: “The announcement did beg a few questions, such as who exactly will be classed as a key worker, but whoever we have to help we will.

MORE: Join our Suffolk coronavirus updates group for more

“We consider supermarket staff, teachers and out own admin staff to be key workers as well.

“We want to support families through this crisis, I can think of no other time like this since wartime.”

One Sixth Form College, formerly Suffolk One, has created a ‘home learning model’ and principal Jenny Milsom has confidence in her staff to rise to the new challenge.

“Since the COVID-19 outbreak, we have been preparing and planning for providing the best education and support we are able to using a range of technologies available to us,” she said.

“We would like to reassure all of our students, their parents and carers that our staff will continue to support them both emotionally and educationally throughout these unprecedented times.”

Copleston High School principal Andy Green said: “These are unprecedented times. It’s a very difficult and incredibly uncertain time for schools but it’s a very complex situation and we understand what the government is saying.

“We’re set up for remote learning and we’ve got instruction manuals for students and teachers.

“We’re going to be providing screencasts, which are like PowerPoint presentations with voiceovers. We’re also going to be giving students points of contact in terms of asking subject specific questions.

“However, we’re going to have to think very carefully about timetables of students that are coming into school. We want to do all we can to support our key colleagues in the health service - we have the greatest respect and greatest admiration for the work they continue to do.

“The staff at the school have been brilliant and they’re all pulling together at this time. I think schools have just got to provide the best education they can.

“We want to provide the best remote learning we can - that’s all we can do.”

Mr Green added that the school had already been looking at putting in place procedures to support those on free school meals, although the government has said it is looking at helping families in this situation.

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