Poplar headteacher hopes to emerge to 'a better future' after Covid-19

Manorfield Primary School headteacher

The headteacher at Poplar's Manorfield Primary School Paul Jackson has spoken to the Advertiser about how his school has managed the pandemic. - Credit: Paul Jackson

Covid-19 has made 2020 an unforgettable year for all the wrong reasons.

With schools at the coronavirus coalface, The Advertiser spoke to the headteacher at Manorfield Primary School to see how it has managed the pandemic. 

Paul Jackson has presided over the Poplar school during its most "challenging" period, which he says forced everyone involved to "completely reinvent" themselves.

For schools, the pandemic can be broadly categorised into two periods: lockdown without pupils (save for those of key workers) and managing the virus with pupils back in the classroom.

As Mr Jackson explains, the first period saw another problem emerge with a vengeance: "Some of our families shared with us their need for food, with a lack of income and with children being at home."

With many unable to afford what was usually provided by the school, Manorfield started a food distribution programme, which at one point was sending out around 1,000 parcels a week (to families across the borough).

Welcoming pupils back with the virus still at large created a "dynamic situation", with the school forced to implement a system which would enable "as much social distancing" and "as little contact" as possible.

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Though this caused some upheaval, without the measures "we would be faced with many more class and year group closures than we have had", says Mr Jackson.

The headteacher also mentions a unique challenge facing primary schools -more parents dropping off and picking up their children.

"At Manorfield, we have over 700 children with many of them arriving at school with more than one parent. This is a lot of people in one place at one time."

To manage this, parents are currently not allowed on site and have to drop their children off at various gates. 

The biggest overall challenge is "having to react very quickly when we hear of any positive test results", a reality which Mr Jackson foresees enduring for a while. "Sadly, I think there will be an increase in cases in January."

Though he isn't optimistic of seeing "any sense of normality" for the rest of this academic year, Mr Jackson hopes to emerge to "a better future" by September 2021.

Contact the school to support its food distribution programme.