Community college principal out of superlatives to describe students' resilience

Exmouth Community College principal Andrew Davis.

Exmouth Community College principal Andrew Davis. - Credit: Archant

Often in our normal everyday business such superlatives are bandied around somewhat cheaply and so lose their value and impact over time.

However, I think we can all agree as we approach a new year and reflect on 2020, that these words are totally appropriate for what our communities and the country has experienced through the impact of Covid-19.

Back in February, all we knew was that a virus was on its way which could spread rapidly. Certainly most people working in schools recognised that this virus had the potential to ravage educational settings, which involve crowded corridors and groups of students and staff working closely together.

Before we were instructed to close we had been doing everything possible, despite large numbers of staff having to self-isolate, to keep the school running for as many students as possible. Many students and staff were understandably quite scared and anxious at that stage.

As we moved into lockdown, we felt our own ECC education system shift below our feet. As a college we remained open to students every day, including holiday periods, to support the children of Key Workers and priority students.

Pastoral staff contacted our most vulnerable families, often on a daily basis, to provide any support we could from food parcels to supermarket vouchers or often just be someone to talk to. We were also rapidly developing our remote learning provision.

This meant massive investment in webcams, huge technical analysis to ensure that we were creating a safe operating environment for students, and training for staff to deliver effective online sessions. Our Design Technology department also made hundreds of visors for local businesses!

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During the Summer we received guidance about how all schools were to open in September.

For us, we were able to use our space to create collection points around the site to ensure corridors did not become crowded with students, and we introduced one way systems throughout the college.

We adopted staggered starts, breaks and ends to the college day. Staff clean classrooms between every lesson before rushing to collect their classes. As a college, we also adopted wearing face coverings around the site very early on. Teachers have had to think carefully about the way they deliver lessons and stay in touch with self-isolating students.

Social distancing measures in the hallways

Social distancing measures in the hallways - Credit: Exmouth Community College

By doing all of these things we have managed to keep the students, staff and our community as safe as possible while still providing a broad and balanced curriculum.

I think over these months the first thing I have learnt is that our students, the young people of Exmouth and East Devon, have been amazing throughout this crises. From the examination classes last year to the worry for this year’s examination classes, through to our younger students, and particularly those in Year 7, who had to settle for a “virtual” transition but have made a great start to their time at the College.

I have also learnt that our staff, both teaching and non-teaching, are astounding. Over the past months they have regularly gone above and beyond to prepare lessons, support students and continue to track and trace students when we have a positive case. A job that the team has offered to continue to do to keep everyone safe right up to Christmas Day.

Protective face masks created by Exmouth Community College.

Protective face masks created by Exmouth Community College. - Credit: Exmouth Community College

Finally I believe parents and carers, Governors and the whole community have really got behind their school over these troubling times and we are very grateful to all the support and kind wishes that we have received.

I think we still face another very difficult couple of months as positive cases resurface from time to time, but at least there is now some hope on the horizon as vaccines are rolled out.

On behalf of all the staff at the College I would like to thank parents, carers, students and the wider community for their continued support over the past few months and we wish you a very happy Christmas and peaceful new year.

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