'The buzz is back' as students return to class at schools in North Kirklees

Staff and students are back in schools across North Kirklees as the new academic year is underway, following a challenging 18 months for everyone in education due to the pandemic.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 3:00 pm
Dr Simon Hounsell's Year seven biology class at Heckmondwike Grammar School

Pupils returned to the classroom at Heckmondwike Grammar School determined to make up for lost time - with lunchtime clubs and activities back on the menu.

While students stayed on track academically during the pandemic, what many had missed out on were extra-curricular clubs and social activities.

Head teacher Peter Roberts said the school had worked hard to ensure there was no need for any “catch up” academically but it was inevitable students had missed out socially.

A Year nine maths class at Heckmondwike Grammar School

In the first week of the new term Mr Roberts spoke at year group assemblies asking for ideas on what lunchtime clubs the students would like to set up and run themselves.

Mr Roberts offered seed money from the headteacher’s fund and was inundated with requests.

One group wanted to buy a panini press to recycle plastic bottle lids while another suggestion was taekwondo classes. Ideas as diverse as a girls’ football club, a knitting club and a debating society were also among the requests.

Mr Roberts said: “It’s great to be back. I did a tour of the school and in every classroom, whatever the subject, you could hear a pin drop. The work ethic was very pleasing to see.

Head teacher Peter Roberts, at Heckmondwike Grammar School

“Very early on during the pandemic we adopted live learning with teachers transmitting live into the homes of students and that meant we kept students on track and we have no need for any catch-up.

“But what we are monitoring is the well-being of students because friendships, physical exercise and building relationships with teachers were all impacted.

“Extra-curricular clubs and trips are the one thing students will have missed out on and that’s what we want to bring back as soon as we can.”

Students have had one Covid test and a second will follow. Positive tests have been “miniscule”, according to Mr Roberts.

Pupils have returned to class at Upper Batley High School

Face coverings can be discarded and only a small number still choose to wear them.

Mr Roberts added: “It’s so nice to see facial expressions and smiles and that excitement has boosted morale.”

The "Batley Buzz" was in full flow around Upper Batley High School (UBHS) when staff and students returned earlier this month after the summer break.

The Covid-19 pandemic posed so many challenges for education, but UBHS kept going throughout, investing more than £200,000 in additional laptops and devices for children to study at home, and staff delivering live lessons as part of its Blended Learning programme.

Joanne Grogan, business support officer at UBHS, said: "Continually delivering a high-quality education for all was a goal we achieved during the pandemic.

"Although our Blended Learning programme was excellent and our school achieved the CAS award for supporting world class computing education, nothing beats having children in classrooms, working directly with their subject specialist teacher.

"Bubbles are gone, and children can now return to specialist teaching rooms for subjects such as science, technology and art, which really helps develop a deeper and more enriching curriculum experience.

"Safety is our number one priority and we continue to wear face masks on our corridors and in communal areas at break and lunchtime, and everyone tests at home twice each week.

"We provided on site testing for everyone to ensure a safe return to school. Our staff were trained on the NHS testing process and we opened our Florence Flow Facility for the safe testing of staff and learners. Almost 1,000 tests were carried out.

"We are now able to recommence our curriculum enrichment offer with after school clubs starting later this month. These range of subject specific clubs such as technology club and science club, to rocket club, archery, cricket, football, table tennis and much more.

"UBHS is an exciting place to work and to learn."

Head teacher Sam Vickers said: “I would like to welcome everyone back to the start of the new academic year.

"Our school is here to ensure that all our children receive a first-class education coupled with the very best care, guidance and support.

"We look forward to working closely with our parents and families during the exciting year ahead as our school returns to normal on-site education following the challenges faced last year due to the pandemic.

"I firmly believe that the hopes and aspirations of our children are best served when the adults work together to ensure that those dreams become a reality.

"At UBHS, we see our school as being in the heart of our community, and we have a key role in making a positive difference in children’s lives and ensuring our young people are well prepared for adult life.

"We wish all our learners every success for the forthcoming year.”