Published: Friday, 18th December 2020

As schools in Medway close their doors this week for the Christmas break, we have praised and thanked all head teachers and staff for their extraordinary efforts and achievements of the past year.

This has been year like no other, but throughout it all, our schools’ commitment to providing the best education to our young people as well as keeping them safe has remained paramount. Throughout the lockdown all Medway’s schools remained open providing vital support for our most vulnerable children and the children of Medway’s key workers, and at the same time, they rose to the challenge of helping other children learn at home.

Huge preparation went in throughout the summer holidays to ensure our schools could provide the safest environment for children to return to the classroom. This gave Medway families the confidence that children could be reunited with their friends and teachers to continue their education.

Attendance figures at our primary and secondary schools were consistently above the national average for the first half of the term with important milestones such as school place applications and the Medway Test still taking place.

Other key achievements this term have included:

  • the tracking of all vulnerable children not attending school due to illness, enforced isolation or any other reason;
  • ensuring that all children of key workers, pupils with SEND and those who are disadvantaged were able to attend our schools at all times during the term;
  • continuing SEND transport for all pupils including rearranged routes with pupils transported in their school bubbles;
  • the efforts made by all our school leaders to keep Medway’s schools open as the infection rates rose sharply during November and December, the only schools to close, and for brief periods, did so because there were insufficient staff to remain open.

As COVID-19 cases rose across Medway during the latter part of the term, schools acted calmly and decisively to protect all pupils whilst still ensuring the continuation of education.

Medway Council has worked closely with all school head teachers since the start of the pandemic providing support, advice and guidance in a very productive partnership.

Putting the needs of pupils first

Thanking Medway’s schools, Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Education and Schools, Cllr Martin Potter, said: “At every turn of this pandemic, Medway’s schools have shown themselves to be resilient, creative and resourceful, putting the needs of their pupils first. We recognise that teachers gave up their Easter break to support key worker and vulnerable children and put in extra preparation over the summer so all children could return to school safely in September. Many put their own children into childcare to help serve their community and many stepped up to cover classes or manage groups outside their usual experience. Support staff did a magnificent job in keeping school operations moving and the leadership teams have led from the front throughout. We are all very proud of Medway’s school staff, they have been an inspiration not only to pupils, but to the whole Medway community.”

Christmas food packages for our most vulnerable children

Medway Council has used some of the £908,596 funding from the Department for Work and Pensions’ Winter Support Grant to provide additional support to families most affected financially by the coronavirus pandemic. Schools and the council have been working with a wide range of partners to support free school meal eligible children to access a healthy food hamper this week. By close of play on Thursday, 17 December, 6,800 children had received their hamper, with 1,200 left to deliver or collect, over the next couple of days. This collection and delivery of the last hampers is being co-ordinated by Citizens Advice Medway and Medway Council’s Public Health team, supported by a wide range of partners. This project was rapidly planned and executed and despite all the social distancing and other potential COVID-19 barriers. The partnership has worked incredibly hard to deliver this support and thanks are given to all involved in the project.  The project will be implemented again during the February 2021 half term and we will be building on feedback from schools and families to make improvements at the time and would like to thank schools for their collaboration and help.

Helping families receive vital support

Medway Council’s Lead Member for Children’s Services, Cllr Josie Iles, said: “We know that many of Medway’s most vulnerable families have been affected financially due to the implications of the restrictions and Christmas can be one of the most difficult and expensive times of the year. We do not want a single Medway child to go hungry during the Christmas holiday and are so pleased to have been able to arranged for families to receive this vital support. The schools have done a magnificent job in helping us coordinate and distribute the packages in these very challenging circumstances.”

Remember to abide by the rules over Christmas

As well as wishing children and families an enjoyable Christmas, Medway Council and schools have taken the opportunity to remind families of the importance of continuing to abide by government guidance and stay safe throughout the break to ensure they can return to school in January. Medway’s infection rate remains very high and families are urged to ensure that they keep their loved ones safe by continuing to social distance, wear face coverings and mix with no more than two other households in their Christmas bubble.  

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