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BBC hears how our schools are helping

Our executive head teacher, Andy Johnson, and John Hirst, head at Smithdon, were interviewed on BBC Radio Norfolk yesterday (Thursday 12th November) about why three of our schools are doing their bit to help in the fight against Covid-19 by taking part in a major national survey about the spread of the virus, focusing on schools. 

Springwood, Smithdon and Marshland are all taking part in this scheme, run byPublic Health England, the Office for National Statistics and the London Schools of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “This is useful information for the country, so our trustees were very keen that we contributed to this national effort,” said Mr Johnson. 

“This is useful information for the country, so our trustees were very keen that we contributed to this national effort,” said Mr Johnson. 

“We've been looking at sixth formers and staff volunteering, to see if they have COVID, and also looking for antibodies so we can see what the spread has been within our school during the pandemic. 

“Volunteers have been keen to get involved and we’re pleased by their efforts and willingness. Let’s hope it contributes to the virus being eliminated sooner rather than later.” 

The testing process is checking for the virus and also for antibodies, which are chemicals found in the blood as a result of having previously encountered the virus, and is carried out through nasal and mouth swabs, and taking blood samples. 

Smithdon has not had any student cases of the virus yet, but Mr Hirst said that did not mean anyone was taking anything for granted, and the whole school was keen to help in any way it could. 

“Students have been very responsible, we’ve put procedures in place to keep the school clean and the children have been very accepting and understanding - they’re working hard to keep us all healthy,” he said. “Young people have been getting a bad rap about this, but I think they’ve been very responsible.” 

The schools volunteered to take part in the survey, and participation within schools is also entirely voluntary, but Mr Hirst said the level of enthusiasm was extremely encouraging. 

“We offered to do this – when I put it to staff, to a person they said yes, if it can help, and when we put it out to parents, they too were very keen that their children could help in some way,” he said. 

“We’ve had the testers in already and it went very smoothly. For children it’s a nose swab to see if they have it and mouth swab to check for antibodies. For staff, it was a nasal swab and a blood test.  

“I think most people expected it to just be a pinprick but you had to take home a vial and fill it up with blood, so next morning we had a lot of staff getting up and sticking what were effectively staple guns into their thumbs, then massaging the blood out – it was an interesting experience! I saw quite a few teachers wandering round with half a dozen plasters on their thumbs after that.” 

Appearing on the local radio station was a great opportunity to showcase to the wider community the work that is being done all across the Trust, and the difference that can be made by people working together, a point Mr Hirst was keen to emphasise, when talking about the pandemic as a whole. 

“Through lockdown we did a lot of work with our families, to support them, and when the children came back after the summer they’ve settled really well,” he said. 

“I think we have a really good relationship with our families, and things like this only help build on that. It's tough at the moment but children being in the school is definitely the best for them. I think the relationship with the community and parents has done well despite the pandemic.”