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Principal hails 'Dunkirk spirit' of school staff

By Peter Madeley | Sandwell | Education | Published:

An executive principal at one of the country's major academy chains has hailed the "Dunkirk spirit" of school staff and students for rising to the challenge of coronavirus.

Andrew Burns says staff and pupils have risen to the challenge of coronavirus

Andrew Burns, who heads two Black Country schools for Ormiston Academies Trust, said he has been forced to turn staff away after being inundated with offers of help since the school shut down was announced last Friday.

He also said he had instructed staff to be "honestly optimistic" when deciding on exam grades for pupils.

In a bid to reduce the spread of coronavirus, all exams have been cancelled and schools closed for usual lessons, with skeleton staff on hand to cater for the children of key workers and those who are considered vulnerable.

Mr Burns said this week 22 pupils were attending Ormiston Forge school in Cradley Heath, with 15 at the Ormiston NEW Academy in Wolverhampton.

"Everybody's pulled together," he said. "The sense of Dunkirk spirit' and being in the trenches together has been fantastic.

"We asked for staff on Friday to come forward so we would be able to staff this and we had 78 volunteers. We've had to turn people away.

"We're expecting the pupil numbers to wane as the weeks go on, because people will be using common sense and staying at home.

"Already we've had kids coming in to collect work and some coming in for free school meals, but they are being sensible and distancing themselves while they are here.

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"We've also got two staff going out and delivering free school meals to families who can't get in.

"You realise in times like this that the ethos we have instilled at the school shines through and pays you back.

"This story isn't unique to us. I'm hearing the same thing from lots of headteachers that their staff just want to contribute in whatever ways they can."

Mr Burns, who is splitting his time between both sites over the coming weeks, said youngsters were starting to send in work to be marked within a couple of hours of the start of the shut down on Monday.

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"It has been incredible to see and the kids realise that if they don't work now it is affecting their futures," he said.

According to Mr Burns, there is no solution that will "please everyone" when it comes to determining exam grades, which the Government announced will be based on the estimations of teachers.

"We don't know what the future holds but we just have to assume that the Government are using a great deal of common sense and will give the youngsters a platform to go onto what comes next in their lives," he said.

"I don't think there is a solution that solves everybody's issues. We tend to have a lot of kids who start slowly then put a lot of effort into their exams towards the final six weeks.

"We need to account for them and I have asked our teachers to be honestly optimistic, so we can give our kids the chance to go on to the next level of their lives and fulfil their potential.

"This is particularly important for kids who are going to leave school and go into work."

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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