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Beenham Primary School's new head speaks of lockdown triumphs and challenges

Amy Donnelly joined the school at the beginning of January

Charlie Masters

Charlie Masters

charlie.masters@newburynews.co.uk

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Beenham Primary School's new head speaks of lockdown triumphs and challenges

Beenham Primary School's new headteacher has spoken of the challenges of running a village school through the lockdown period.

The announcement of the new restrictions came as a shock to Amy Donnelly, who only started at Beenham early in January.

Prior to this, she had worked as deputy head of Battle Primary Academy in Reading.

She said of her first day: "I hadn't met any of the children, any of the parents before I took up the post in January.

"We had a training day for staff and then, at 8 o'clock that evening, got told by the Government that schools were closing – so we had literally a day to sort everything out.

"I'd only met the teachers a couple of times."

Nevertheless, the transition has proved a lot smoother than Mrs Donnelly had anticipated.

The school is still open to select pupils, and is accepting bookings for viewings by parents who would be interested in sending their children there.

Mrs Donnelly said: "It's been really different, completely different from what I expected.

"Because we are still open every day for critical worker and vulnerable children, I've got to meet some of the children and some of the families.

"As part of our remote learning offer, we provide three assemblies a week, where the whole school come together on a Zoom call.

"I've got to meet some children and families that way – obviously it's not ideal, but, in the best of circumstances, that's how I've shown that 'this is me and this is what we're doing'."

Mrs Donnelly has been particularly impressed by the engagement of children and parents alike.

The rollout of remote learning has been successful over the most recent lockdown period.

IT support and equipment has been provided by the school to ensure that no child misses out.

She said: "Our remote offer includes live sessions each day with the class teacher, there's videos of the class teacher.

"Some of our parents have got three children, all different ages, and jobs to do themselves.

"So expecting sort of four hours every day of schoolwork for them is an added pressure.

"On a Friday, we do a 'Free Choice Friday', so we provide four hours' worth of activities, but they're not core subjects – they're things to support wellbeing, such as going outside for a walk, learning a language, artwork, things like that."

Of Beenham's 56 pupils, around 10 are currently attending lessons on an active basis.

"We have different children in on different days," said Mrs Donnelly.

"As time goes on – as happened in the last lockdown – more people need to go back to work at a point and you get more requests for childcare.

"I've got pretty much 100-per-cent parental engagement – 100 per cent of our parents have signed up to our remote learning platform, which is great."

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