Plantsbrook’s headteacher says the challenges of the last 12 months have built a stronger connection between the school and parents – after declaring its COVID testing processes ‘a huge success for teamwork’.
Jason Farr believes that the challenges of the pandemic, lockdown, remote learning and now testing have seen staff, pupils, parents and the wider community engage with each other in a way that will benefit the school in the future.
“I think we are coming out of this stronger as a school community,” Mr Farr said, “We have engaged with parents much more than frequently we normally would, and this will now continue as we see the benefits unfold.
Plantsbrook’s testing facility is now being dismantled in the school’s sports hall.
“We have been honest, open and transparent with our parents too, and we wanted them to feel as though they are part of what we are doing, and that we are in partnership with them.
“They have responded by doing what we needed them to do. It’s affirming to know that we have our parents working with us. It’s been a massive positive.”
Mr Farr was speaking as the impressive testing facility in the Upper Holland Road School was dismantled.
“We have finished getting all students tested through the test centre, giving all those that consented the three tests needed,” he explained.
“Of course, it has been a little bit disruptive, but we had the system working like a well-oiled machine. Despite initial worries about capacity, we were processing 450-500 students through a day.
“We had the option to stagger the arrival of the students back to school, but we took the decision that we wanted to get them all in ASAP, so we staggered it over just two days.
“This put us under additional pressure, but we wanted the students back in the building as soon as possible, and we wanted to be able to work with our families to get back to a routine as quickly as possible.
“To put it simply, we wanted our pupils to have the opportunity for some face-to-face learning before they break up for Easter.
Former NHS professional Phil Milligan has led the creation of the testing centre.
“But serious amounts of planning went into it, and it moved like absolute clockwork. It was a huge success for teamwork.
“At the height we were doing a test per minute, which was just incredible. The students were really compliant, really cooperative too – they understood why we were doing it, and just got on with it.”
Phil Milligan, a former NHS employee, helped set up the testing centre in the gym and oversaw the process.
Mr Farr said: “It was very reliant on the students being responsible and mature, getting themselves there and back, with as little staff interaction as possible. We managed to keep the school running as normal, with the students accepting responsibility for doing it. That’s Plantsbrook for you!”
The testing area is now being dismantled, so the sports hall can get back to normal lessons. However, the school will still retain a place for tests to be carried out.
“AT THE HEIGHT WE WERE DOING A TEST PER MINUTE, WHICH WAS JUST INCREDIBLE,”
– HEADTEACHER JASON FARR
“We are supposed to keep a testing centre if families are unable to test at home, so we surveyed parents, and we have only got five students that need to have a test administered in school,” Mr Farr said.
“So, we are putting any future testing through the First Aid room, where staff are trained with testing, so we can get the sports hall back into use for PE.”
Mr Farr said he was grateful for the support shown by parents through the process.
“I am relieved that it is over, but proud of the staff and pupils for how they have handled this, and grateful to their families,” he said.
“We have seen an incredibly small number of positive cases coming through, and that suggests that our families have been observing all of the lockdown principles. They have supported us with the reopening, and we are so pleased with that.”
The success is now continuing into home testing.
Mr Farr said: “What we are seeing is the vast majority of our parents and students engaging with home testing, they are administering the tests, recording the information with the school and NHS test and trace.
“Of course, we have had some students self-isolating, and those students are currently working from home with a remote learning package.”