Headteacher unable to use new £30 million building due to Covid-19 is left ‘devastated’

After a couple of delays, a new home for Coombe Wood School has been completed – but the third lockdown means children will have to wait until it is over to see the new £30 million building.

Last term, pupils were temporarily moved over to the closed St Andrew’s High School due to unexpected delays on the building work blamed on the coronavirus pandemic.

Headteacher Barry Laker said: “We have mixed emotions, because we would love to have our children in here, it is a beautiful building.

“Like most schools we saw the lockdown coming and this time we were very well prepared and well versed in live learning.”

Pupils at the school are following their normal timetables wearing their school uniform or sports kit and all children have to have their cameras on.

The school has a strong focus on sports and usually children have health related fitness classes where pupils wear a MyZone heart monitor which means they can see their heart rates on a big screen while doing high intensity workouts.

While the heart monitors can’t be used at home the school is still running the classes virtually with circuit style exercises.

The sports court at Coombe Wood School

Mr Laker said: “With health-related fitness, we thought why not? We made sure they had appropriate space and there are no students that can’t participate.”

Two teachers take the class together with one demonstrating the exercises while the other tells the kids what to do and can give them pointers on their technique as they have their cameras on.

“The students do it from their living rooms or wherever they are,” said Mr Laker.

“They are used to doing the circuits and I think they really enjoy it, it’s always been an inclusive thing, it is based on effort.

“We know it is so good for well-being, the lockdown rules are we can go out and exercise but we wouldn’t know that they’re doing that. It is part of our job to look after the well-being of our students.”

Mr Laker said attendance in the first week back has been high, helped by pupils who needed to be loaned or given laptops and their families being helped to get internet data.

He said: “Educationally we’d love to have them in the building face to face, but we are confident that we are leaving no stone unturned to give them what they need and help them progress to the GCSE exams.

“None of this remote learning would work without the commitment of students and support of the parents and carers. We

outside space at the new Coombe Wood School building

The school, which opened in temporary buildings in September 2018, now has pupils in years seven, eight and nine with more than 30 members of staff.

This means none of the Coombe Wood children will be missing out on GCSE and A Level exams this summer, which have been cancelled for the second year running.

But Mr Laker thinks the Government’s decision to cancel the exams was the right one.

“Some schools have been more affected than others with coronavirus so it would not be fair, but it is a shame for all the students who have worked really, really hard towards these exams,” he said.

Mr Laker said he can’t wait for children to be able to come to the new school which includes more than 60 classrooms, specialist science labs and even a kiln room for pottery.

And he has hopes for a vegetable garden and for staff to be trained in beekeeping to introduce it as an extracurricular activity for children.

“I can see the dream coming to fruition. I am just devastated we’re not in the school already,” he said.

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