'Our pupils will bounce back after many months off school' - headteacher at Harborough school gives a fascinating insight into one of the greatest challenges schools have ever faced

Dan Cleary gave youngsters a massive vote of confidence as he gears up to welcome back over 1,000 pupils to Robert Smyth Academy in September

Wednesday, 8th July 2020, 3:08 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th July 2020, 3:12 pm
Dan Cleary gave youngsters a massive vote of confidence as he gears up to welcome back over 1,000 pupils to Robert Smyth Academy in September.

The head of a major Market Harborough school has declared – I’m sure our students will bounce back from the lockdown very quickly.

Dan Cleary gave youngsters a massive vote of confidence as he gears up to welcome back over 1,000 pupils to Robert Smyth Academy in September.

The principal of the Burnmill Road school gave a fascinating insight into the greatest peacetime challenge schools have ever faced in the UK amid the Covid-19 emergency.

Dan told the Harborough Mail: “I am sure that our kids will come roaring back.

“It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be straightforward.

“But I have every faith that our students will bounce back quickly.”

The experienced headteacher added: “We have to be positive.

“Let’s be ambitious and make certain that we are as well equipped as possible to work with our children when they do finally return.”

Dan said that he’s not under-estimating the enormous job ahead as local schools prepare to break up for the summer holidays on Friday July 10.

“The sheer size of this task is like nothing else we have ever faced in schools.

“Many of our students will have been away from school for six months by the time they return in September,” said the dad-of-two.

“That’s a long time and it will be hard work as we have a big gap to close.

“But the kids will have still missed just three per cent of their total time attending school.

“It’s obviously not ideal and clearly no one saw this pandemic coming.

“But our staff have responded to this crisis incredibly well.

“So let’s have a big dose of confidence in our kids.

“Most of them are amazingly resilient, tenacious, resourceful and determined to succeed.

“Let’s make this totally clear – we will not write off this generation of kids.”

Dan said he was elated to be told by the Government that all students will be returning to the classroom after the summer break.

“I’m very excited and it’s a huge relief to start getting back to normal.

“We have had our Year 10 and Year 12 youngsters back in as well as the kids of key workers,” he said.

“They have all been brilliant and it’s been a privilege to see them back.

“It’s our job to make sure that we fulfil our curriculum, enabling kids to go on to become medics, doctors, teachers, engineers, electricians and so on.

“School is a great social leveller – and it is absolutely vital as we move forward in this country.

“We develop our children, our future, here while supporting adults at the same time.

“I have been holding meetings and talks with so many different people here and agencies to ensure the school will be as hygienic and as safe as possible for our staff and kids.

“I’ve been planning for a number of scenarios as everything has been up in the air.

“We have built a virtual learning environment over the last 12 weeks.

“We are planning for every student to return in September.

“But you never know what might happen – and we have to be prepared for every eventuality.”

Dan said teachers will be keeping a special eye on students’ mental health following their unprecedented absence from school.

“But it’s very exciting to be looking forward to welcoming all our pupils back and we won’t let anyone down.

“I also want to say a massive thank you to all our staff,” said the proud principal.

“We’ve got about 100 staff working here altogether.

“And they have all done incredibly well through the most difficult few months imaginable.

“So my immense thanks and gratitude go out to every single one of them.”