With our academies welcoming back increasing numbers of pupils in recent weeks, we spoke to Paul Beard, Regional Facilities and Health and Safety Manager, about the work that has gone into preparing our North academies in Sheffield and Oldham.
How did you feel when the government announced that schools and academies in England would be closing?
Unfortunately, I believed it was inevitable. We had already had a confirmed case in one of our academies which meant closing the academy and calling on specialist cleaners. This prepared us for the seriousness of the situation, and I was able to make provisions quite early on.
How have you overcome the enormous challenges you have faced in the last three months and in particular as we welcome back more pupils?
We have got to where we are now by working as a team. Every team within each academy, both operations and educational, have worked closely together, followed suggestions and come up with solutions as a team. Every single member of staff has contributed to the safe opening of our academies.
I have also always valued the close relationships I have built up with our local suppliers and contractors. They have always been available to help with minutes’ notice because they care about the academies and our staff and pupils. These relationships have been invaluable during these preparations.
How did parents feel about our academies opening to wider year groups?
Understandably, many parents were anxious and came to us for reassurance. Whilst I was confident that procedures were in place, staff were well informed and the academy was ready, I wanted to ensure parents felt comfortable too. I have personally spoken to many parents, and we have received some great feedback from them.
How have pupils reacted to being back at the academy?
Being on site this week, I have been amazed at how quickly children have adapted and are content with the new rules. They are all aware of the situation and help each other to follow the procedures in place. The younger children in particular have adapted to new layouts, hand washing and keeping two meters apart so well.
How have you as a line manager managed and supported your team during this challenging time?
I have kept in daily contact, not only to keep everyone up to date but to check on their wellbeing. I can honestly say every member of our site teams has worked incredibly hard despite the challenges we have faced, and I’m extremely proud of them all.
I have also received incredible support from my line manager, so I know what a difference support and recognition makes.
Looking back on the challenges you have faced, how do you feel?
I’m not going to lie, it has been one of the most challenging times in my career, but my focus has remained on ensuring we do everything right and keep everyone safe. We will no doubt face additional challenges, but we are continually learning, adapting and preparing to ensure we can keep every pupil and staff member safe.