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'We must not lose a generation of young people.' West Norfolk headteacher reflects on Covid challenge to education

A West Norfolk school leader has warned of the potential for a "lost generation" of young people as efforts to keep education going through the coronavirus crisis continue.

Andy Johnson, executive headteacher for the West Norfolk Academies Trust, has spoken of his challenges and concerns after the government yesterday announced plans to delay the new term for many pupils.

Primary school pupils in West Norfolk will return to lessons as scheduled next week, after the Christmas break.

Andy Johnson.
Andy Johnson.

But most secondary students won't go back until January 18, with only pupils in Years 11 and 13 returning on Monday week, January 11.

Mr Johnson told BBC Radio Norfolk meetings would be taking place today to work out plans for the new term in the light of yesterday's announcement.

He said: "We are up against a war-like effort nationally so we have to pick ourselves up and keep going.

"Right at the forefront of our thinking are parents and students who need every day of their learning. What has been shown since March is the importance of schooling, and attending school.

"We need to make sure we don’t have a lost generation who lose out on the vital education that they need."

He admitted greater notice would have helped, but said he felt "the writing was on the wall" before schools broke up for the Christmas holidays.

He also thanked staff, students, parents and the wider school community for their support in recent months.

He added: "I’ve been in a school where we’ve had hundreds of children sent home and that is quite a challenge but we’ve got better at that and we have learnt from that.

"Delivering online learning has been a new experience for all of us but we are just trying to do our best in a difficult set of circumstances."

Mr Johnson said the trust, which runs 11 primary and secondary schools, was working to try to offer mental health support to those in need.

And socially distanced activities like singing are set to continue as a means of raising morale.

Mr Johnson said: "Peter Strudwick, Rob Galliard and our teams across our secondaries and primaries have worked so hard in ensuring young people can continue singing and trying to keep all the good extracurricular things we do as a Trust going.

"We will continue to keep the singing going because it’s something we can all do and enjoy and I know the parents, students and staff have enjoyed doing it.

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