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Overwhelming response to summer COVID catch up

It was back to school for James Wild as he visited one of our schools last week and found classrooms full of students even though it’s the summer holiday.

As part of the Government’s £20m summer school plan, Year 6 students were invited to give up part of their summer holiday in exchange for extra lessons and 120 students jumped at the chance at St Clement's High School.

“We were overwhelmed by the fantastic response from our new students,” said Nigel Willingham, Headteacher at St Clement’s “When we started planning this we thought we’d be happy if half the year group attended but almost all the whole year group attended at some point during the week.”

The students explained to their MP that while they had attended extra lessons in subjects such as English, Maths and history, there had also been time for other activities. All students undertook CPR training, they learnt about looking after bees and even had a visit from Emma’s Hedgehog Hotel.

Mrs Towle, St Clement’s Assistant Headteacher who organised the week-long programme, continued: “During lockdown students missed out on social interaction so we included a series of fun activities as part of the programme, one day the whole group visited InflataNation and had a brilliant time. We hope it has given them a real boost of confidence ready for the new school year.”

During Friday's visit to the school, the soon-to-be St Clement's student’s explained their work to James and had the opportunity to ask questions about being an MP.

On seeing the impact of programme, James Wild said: “I was pleased to have the opportunity to visit St Clement’s High School and to meet children starting Year 7 in September.

“It was impressive to hear about the creative approach taken in the summer school lessons and other activities to help boost catch up and build confidence. The enthusiasm of the pupils and teachers with lots of smiling faces was great to see.”

Summers schools also took place at other West Norfolk Academy Trust schools with 144 involved at Marshland High and Smithdon High.

At Marshland, students enjoyed engaging activities in Maths and English to help them prepare them for September.

Enrichment activities saw students take in Olympic-inspired dance workshops as well as STEM Lego challenges and Virtual Reality workshops.

Students also took part in afternoons of music learning about different instruments and played sport team games such as basketball and rounders.

To end the week, the soon-to-be Marshland students enjoyed a day out at Banham Zoo.

Over in Hunstanton, at Smithdon High, each day included one hour of English and one hour of maths, followed by a variety of curriculum taster sessions, culminating in a celebration assembly on Thursday afternoon and an adventure trip to Pensthorpe Nature Reserve on Friday.

During the week all students also had the opportunity to take part in the specially-organised Beach School activity, supported by Hunstanton’s RNLI team based in Old Hunstanton, to teach beach safety, explore the Lifeboats and test their tent-building skills.

Other activities included nature design printing in Art for an afternoon; creating water rockets in Science, with students competing to find out whose would go the furthest on the field, as well as trying their hand at using physics to crush cans. 

There was also a calmer but full-of-fun French session with a bouncing beach ball, and the best new learners being presented with their own mini French dictionaries to help them when they start French lessons in September. 

The in-school sessions ended on Thursday with an afternoon of PE activities, including students getting the chance to try out new sports, such as Lacrosse.

The Celebration Assembly gave parents a chance to share their children’s success over the week, watching them receive certificates and prizes for the most notable act of kindness, the biggest smile, effort, progress and more. 

They also got to experience a sneak peak of Smithdon’s school musical production for February 2022 - Matilda - as two of the groups were able to perform the number they had learnt during their afternoon music and performance sessions in the week.

Amanda Gibbins, Head of School, said: “The students had a fantastic week and it was just as rewarding to see the smiles on their tired faces at the end of every day, as it was to see the new friendships forming and progress in learning.” 

Following the announcement last month of the planned government investment in the school buildings, she added, “It is exciting times for these new Year 7s as they will be among the first to benefit from the new facilities and get to experience even more exciting opportunities in the coming years.”