Padiham headteacher praises school community for rising to the challenge after 'incredible' PPE fundraising efforts
Shuttleworth College headteacher Ruth England says she is 'unbelievably proud' of how pupils, parents and staff are rallying round during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A JustGiving page set up through the school, which can be found here, has raised almost £3,000 to help frontline healthcare staff battling the virus.
Shuttleworth had already donated its existing personal protection equipment to Burnley General Hospital and Oakmount House Residential Care Home, but staff and pupils wanted to do more.
Money raised through JustGiving – the school smashed its initial £500 target in hours – is being used to buy extra PPE, produce care packages for key workers and service local food banks.
A 'conveyor-belt' like operation has also been set up at the Burnley Road school with pupils working alongside staff to make visors and other PPE to be donated to those most in need.
Headteacher Mrs Ruth England said: "They are making between 70 and 100 visors a day. These are the children of key workers, with social distancing in place, helping on a little production line that has been created in school. It's been incredible to see.
"Quite a lot of our staff felt bad because they wanted to contribute. But when you're locked down there's no obvious way to do it. We were talking about how we were saving money from not travelling to work, saving money on lunches; so we wanted to encourage people – those still getting paid – to maybe donate that money.
"So we set up the JustGiving page, with the expectation then that we could carry on buying materials for the visors that we're making. All the schools around Burnley – they have all been donating goggle from science departments. We wanted to try and maintain that.
"Face masks are so important because people are working in such close contact with other people. We wanted to maintain the ability to keep making these masks. We're buying the plastic for the visors from eBay, and we think we can keep on doing that. As long as we can still source the right stuff, we will keep persevering with this because there does seem to be a greater need than maybe first thought for these masks.
"What we soon realised was that care homes also need help with toiletries and things like that. Staff are staying over there in these places and there are items that might make it more comfortable for people. We're putting together care packages, and we're also supporting food banks through the Burnley Together community hub. We're trying to structure it because we have been getting quite a few different requests, so we're trying to be a bit more systematic."
Pupils have been busy writing letters of support to healthcare workers, crafting handmade cards for people in isolation; embracing a new form of extracurricular activity with the onus on lifting morale.
Meanwhile, staff have been getting to grips with a different way of working.
"The staff have been great," said Mrs England. "We're doing lots of things that we maybe wouldn't usually be doing. Different departments are running Instagram and Twitter, and hundreds of children are communicating through these channels.
"They're putting on quizzes, Q&As for people, they're promoting education programmes and different resources. It's being used in a really positive way to try and keep that level of contact going. We've had some really nice comments from parents and it's kept the community together which is so important at this time."
Pupils are still being encouraged to learn while at home, but Mrs England stressed the need to 'remain human' throughout these extraordinary times and not apply too much pressures on families.
"Our work is being set though an online platform. This allows emails and contact directly between teachers and their students, so that's been great.
"Students can submit work, asks questions, they can interact. It does pose a challenge for families where that may not be as easy, so those families have been getting physical work dropped off. And we are doing schemes. Every child gets a phone call every couple of weeks; some children get phone calls two or three times a week if they need more support.
"The response has been excellent from parents and pupils. We've set up a little 'help out' email which basically is for parents who are struggling, so they are able to email through any queries. That's been really good.
"Parents have been really engaging with it, asking for a bit more information about this, or saying they are not sure how to approach that. Also, asking for more resources.
"We've tried to be really human about this. We're setting stuff to give structure but we don't want families worrying. Initially we had parents contacting us saying they had not been able to finish everything, asking if they were going to get in trouble.
"We're saying 'look, do what you need to do to survive first and foremost, to stay sane and stay well in your own home'. Because for some families, if you have three or four children – and they range in age from a baby to 12 years old, it's very difficult."
Mrs England is anticipating disruption for the foreseeable future. With GCSEs cancelled, teachers are being asked to assess the grades they think pupils would have achieved.
Evidence including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment will be taken into account and used by exam boards to calculate results.
"Work starts on this just after Easter," said Mrs England. "There's a timeframe now that runs through until the end of May. Exam boards are expecting all information by the end of May.
"More guidance keeps coming through about the process and we will be following this structure remotely. We're lucky because all of our teachers have laptops which can access information on the school system. That will be reasonably straightforward for us. The guidance has been quite clear so far.
"There hasn't been an influx of pupils asking 'what grades am I going to get?'. The students are just trying to process their own understanding of it. The Government and exam board have put clear information together that we have sent out to families that outline what the process is going to be.
"It's important to be clear that these are not just teacher grades. These are going into a system which will then be looking at other information. There will be a lot of adjustments that go on in this big central system."
Mrs England said discussions were ongoing about pupils in Year 10 and whether a similar approach would be required for their GCSEs.
"In a sense you could say the impact is going to be greater for them than it is for the Year 11s. Because it is what it is now in Year 11. They've done most of the work, and a lot of them are on to revision so I think the mechanism there is the fairest it could be in the circumstances.
"There are lot of discussions among teacher group on social media about Year 10 – about whether they need to something similar next year for the current Year 10s .
"I think we need to see how long this goes on for and how long it impacts our ability to teach the curriculum in the traditional way. This will definitely influence what longer term measures have to be taken.
"It's a bit too soon to say right now. We've got our eye on the future but we've got to focus one day at a time right now and make the best of the situation."