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Schools in Cornwall support their communities

There are many examples across Cornwall of people rising to the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 outbreak.

From NHS workers caring for the sick, to supermarket staff for keeping us fed and teachers who have been supporting children and their families.

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For the thousands of young people in Cornwall life has changed dramatically over the last few weeks, as the lockdown was introduced, they were faced with not seeing their friends or teachers and adapting to home learning.

But the one thing that hasn’t changed is the commitment of schools to their local community, the children and their parents and carers.

As schools across Cornwall have replaced buildings with virtual classrooms, newsletters with emails, used social media to share stories or adapted to maximising apps like ClassDojo and Tapestry, teachers and school staff have been going above and beyond.

Cabinet Member for Children, Health and Wellbeing, Councillor Sally Hawken, said: “From the moment the lockdown was announced we have seen outstanding teamwork and commitment from heads, teachers and school staff to continue providing support to Cornish children by opening their doors, and for that I am extremely grateful.

“Schools have worked together to ensure a comprehensive service for key workers, supported families with school meals when there were problems with the government vouchers; their commitment to their community has been exemplary.”

Staff have created virtual lessons, provided activities for families to try at home, read stories via social media and even organised virtual street parties. 

“We’ve remained open to eligible pupils of key workers and vulnerable pupils, many of the pupils we define as vulnerable have attended – some daily and some up to 3 times per week” said Ben Stephenson, the headteacher at Nanstallon School near Padstow. “We have kept in contact with all the other families through our online learning platforms.”

“For example, children upload a video/audio of themselves reading aloud and we can give them feedback. We have had a number of whole school challenges encouraging children to think creatively and problem solve e.g. create their own Rube Goldberg contraption, make their own movie book trailers, design their own PE/dance workouts, recreate a well-known book cover…

“We have also provided IT hardware for 15% of our pupils and seen 87% of our children engaging on an almost daily basis with home learning.  It has been a brilliant opportunity to promote and develop life skills and many parents have supported this really well.

Ben added: “Every week I put together a video assembly showcasing a range of pictures and videos of activities from across the year groups in a ‘virtual’ effort to unify the community. The staff also made a funny video to the Rembrandts song ‘I’ll be there for you’ - This was really well received being released 6 weeks in to lockdown when everyone’s spirits were starting to flag and for a small school of 105 pupils it has had 1200 views!

At Treleigh in Redruth they have been fundraising for Children’s Hospice South West and the children that have been attending the school have taken part in activities inspired by Colonel Tom Moore.

Helen Collinge is the school’s head teacher. She said: “Everyone has been working full pelt to support all our children, those in school and those at home. We have a rota in place, but it is flexible, so if we need more in, or we have to change for whatever reason we have plenty of back up.  Social distancing can be a challenge but in the main the children are getting used to it.

“There are families that are really struggling at the moment - not all for Corona reasons but this has certainly exacerbated it so we are phoning lots of our families every week, to check in with them. Class teachers are setting work and activities on our online platforms for those at home, so we support the children in school to complete these. We also spend a great deal of time outside doing outdoor learning.

“The weather has really helped - In the afternoons our PE Coach comes in and does brilliant team building, problem solving and games sessions with them. 

“Other activities have included an amazing whole school fundraising initiative for our adopted charity of the year Children's Hospice SW, involving doing 100 things for Captain Tom. We had 100 star jumps, 100 bounces on a trampoline, reading 100 pages, 100 minutes of exercise, 100 scales on the piano, drawing 100 Disney characters, potting 100 balls on a pool table etc. We raised over £1200 which was amazing.”