Colorado high schools host creative graduations during the pandemic

From drive-in to drive-through, and from ski gondolas to car parades, high schools across Colorado are finding unique and creative ways to honor this year’s graduating seniors.

Graduation comes at a tenuous time in the public battle to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Many people are pent up after weeks of tight restrictions, and families are eager to celebrate the achievements of students whose senior years were disrupted.

Perceptions of risk vary around the state. Some Colorado school districts won variances from a state ban on gatherings of 10 or more people to hold in-person ceremonies. Others plan to forge ahead with in-person ceremonies without state approval.

Still others have postponed ceremonies originally set for May until July or August in the hopes that the coronavirus pandemic will be less of a public health threat by then. And some schools are opting for the safest route by holding virtual ceremonies.

But even schools whose ceremonies will take place on Zoom have found tangible ways to honor their seniors with lawn signs, downtown banners, and car parades.


Chalkbeat Colorado is a nonprofit news organization covering education issues. For more, visit

Source: Read Full Article

WHO says the Americas are new epicenter of coronavirus pandemic

BRASILIA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) considers the Americas the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, and now is not the time for countries to ease restrictions, officials said in a Tuesday briefing.

Carissa Etienne, WHO director for the Americas and head of the Pan American Health Organization, said via videoconference that outbreaks were accelerating in countries such as Brazil, where the number of deaths reported in the last week was the highest in the world for a 7-day period since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Source: Read Full Article

North Korea: Defector’s torture scars after attempts to flee Kim Jong-un regime exposed

We will use your email address only for sending you newsletters. Please see our Privacy Notice for details of your data protection rights.

Much of what the world knows about North Korea and the Kim dynasty’s regime today originates from the brave testimonies of defectors. Those who have been able to flee the state often recall horrifying experiences from before their escape. Many attempt to cross the border into China before heading to freedom in South Korea. Of the successful few, several have shared their stories in an attempt to shed light on the highly secretive regime under Kim Jong-un and his father Kim Jong-il. The risk of telling these tales is great, with a number of them claiming to have been threatened and some believe they have been pursued by assassins. One defector made nine unsuccessful attempts to flee before she was able to cross the border and start a new life. She revealed heartbreaking details about the torture she suffered upon being caught and showed the scarring still present from those barbaric attacks.

Ms Lee served as nurse in the North Korean army for 11 years before she was able to escape the restrictive regime.

She recalled the brutal ways generals would hurt her for trying to flee the hermit state, during a 2014 interview with Australian TV show ‘Dateline’.

“These are my scars,” Ms Lee said, as she pulled part of her shirt down to reveal a faded wound mark, which was around the size of a tennis ball and directly below her right collarbone.

The defector explained: “When I was arrested, during my interrogation there was this hot plate with steel and they hit me with it here.”

She claimed this wasn’t the only scar she was left with, pointing to other parts of her body. 

Ms Lee explained that “you’re naked when they torture you” during her brave testimony. 

She said: “If you look at my back, I have dents from nails they hammered into me. 

“They also poured hot water down my back, so I have scars from the burns.”

Ms Lee featured as part of a TV segment about North Korean defectors now living in South Korea.

Kim Jong-un: Why North Korea’s ‘time travel’ claim may signal change [EXCLUSIVE]
North Korea: Cutting reason why Kim Jong-un was chosen over brothers [EXCLUSIVE]
North Korea: Shocking reasons why Kim Jong-un’s sister may never rule [EXCLUSIVE]

They included Yeon-mi Park, a young performer who was quickly becoming a star in the state for speaking out about the Kim dynasty’s regime.

Despite a detective telling her she was “seriously in danger” because of her comments, she “refused to cower” to threats from her former leader’s officials.

Ms Park said: “I’m very proud of my name, that’s why if I die I’m ok… I [have] already experienced this freedom so I’m satisfied. 

“At least I can say that I did something for you, my people in North Korea.”

Source: Read Full Article

EMERGING MARKETS-Mexican peso hits 10-week high on recovery hopes

    * Mexico's Q1 economic activity contracts less than expected
    * Brazil's posts record current account surplus in April
    * Investors turn "under-weight" on Brazil's real - JPMorgan
    * Chile's LATAM Airlines files for bankruptcy

    By Susan Mathew
    May 26 (Reuters) - Mexico's peso rose on Tuesday, hitting a
10-week high after economic activity contracted less than
expected in the first quarter, while broader sentiment was
lifted by hopes of a global economic recovery as countries
further eased pandemic-driven lockdowns.
    The peso jumped 1.4%, extending gains to a seventh
straight session after the GDP data, but as a coronavirus
lockdown was applied only in late March, the second quarter is
expected to bear the brunt of the shutdown in business activity.

    "The peso should be well placed to benefit from any
improvement in global growth momentum and EM risk appetite,
helped by its appealing short term valuations improving balance
of payments dynamics," said global FX strategists at JPMorgan.
    Surging copper prices lifted top producer Chile's peso
, while a recovery in oil prices led the Colombian peso
 to its highest since early March.
    Brazil's real surged 1.8% to a four-week high
as central bank data showed the country posted a record current
account surplus in April.
    The real has recently tried to rebound from record lows on
the back of higher commodity prices, but remains about 25% down
on the year amid a federal investigation into President Jair
Bolsonaro as well as a spree of ministerial resignations.
    Bolsonaro has also been criticized for his handling of the
coronavirus outbreak, with Brazil now the second-worst hit
country in terms of the number of infections.
    JPMorgan analysts said investors had turned "under-weight"
on the real for the first time since September 2018, but they
still see the currency outperforming by the end of the year as
financial markets focus on "the significant cheapness of the
currency in the medium run."
    Regional stocks tracked Wall Street higher on hopes the
global economy could emerge from what is expected to be a deep
recession as countries reopened more businesses and on hopes of
a COVID-19 vaccine.
    Brazil's Bovespa hit an 11-week high, while Mexico's
main index rose 1.3%, extending gains to a third straight
    Chile's LATAM Airlines Group SA filed for U.S.
bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, becoming the world's largest
carrier so far to seek an emergency reorganization amid the
coronavirus outbreak.
    Key Latin American stock indexes and currencies at 1056 GMT:
     Stock indexes              Latest      Daily % change
 MSCI Emerging Markets            929.68                    2
 MSCI LatAm                      1785.09                 2.82
 Brazil Bovespa                 86861.54                  1.4
 Mexico IPC                     36308.55                 1.33
 Chile SPIPSA                    3765.02                 0.36
 Argentina MerVal               41836.79                2.134
 Colombia Colcap                 1070.37                  1.2
        Currencies              Latest      Daily % change
 Brazil real                      5.3594                 1.79
 Mexico peso                     22.2375                 1.33
 Chile peso                        798.7                 0.73
 Colombia peso                   3723.41                 1.42
 Peru sol                         3.4178                 0.23
 Argentina peso (interbank)      68.2600                -0.12
 (Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru)

Source: Read Full Article

NYSE to reopen trading floor closed by coronavirus

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The New York Stock Exchange will partially reopen the trading floors at its iconic 11 Wall Street building on Tuesday for the first time since March 20 when the bourse was forced to go all-electronic due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Intercontinental Exchange Inc’s (ICE.N) NYSE floor will be different, with protective masks, strict social distancing requirements, and just around a quarter of the people, NYSE Chief Commercial Officer John Tuttle said in an interview. Still, he says the reopening is meaningful.

“The floor represents so much more than the several tens-of-thousands of square feet it occupies,” he said. “It’s a symbol of America, and it’s a symbol of capital markets; it’s a symbol of the economy and after two months of the country and essentially the world being offline, we want to lead from the front.”

The NYSE said most of its designated market makers, who oversee trading in the exchange’s 2,200 listed companies, will continue to work from home, as will most exchange employees.

The 100 or so traders, regulatory, and operational staff heading into the building, in a still-largely deserted lower Manhattan, have been asked to avoid public transportation, and everyone entering will be screened for signs of the virus.

The NYSE floor is the last physical U.S. stock trading venue, as a slew of all-electronic competitors have emerged and eaten away at the Big Board’s once dominant market share.

Since the move to electronic-only trading, there have been no major disruptions, even with record volumes and volatility, prompting rivals to say the floor, where stocks have changed hands since 1792, has no real utility.

The NYSE says recent data show there was less volatility and tighter bid-ask spreads for NYSE-listed stocks when floor brokers were present, translating into millions of dollars a day in savings for investors.

Source: Read Full Article

Second withdrawal of $31 billion from Singapore's reserves to cushion coronavirus impact

SINGAPORE – Singapore will draw another $31 billion from its reserves in an extraordinary move to fund a fourth package of measures to cushion the people and the economy from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is the second draw on the reserves announced in a span of two months, reflecting the profound impact the virus has had on Singapore’s open economy as businesses and industrial activities grind to a halt all over the world.

It brings to $52 billion the amount of past savings tapped this financial year.

Explaining the decision to dip into the savings again, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat told Parliament on Tuesday (May 26) that it is “necessitated by the very exceptional nature of the Covid-19 crisis.”

To fund the three Budgets already announced this year, the Government had used up almost all of its accumulated surpluses from its current term, he said.

“But what we need to deal effectively with Covid-19 has grown so much that we have no choice but to draw on our past reserves,” he added.

The Government’s current five-year term will end by April 14 next year.

Mr Heng said he had thought long and hard about the move and had gone through rounds and rounds of deliberations and discussions with both the Finance Ministry’s staff and and his Cabinet colleagues before seeking President Halimah Yacob’s approval.

President Halimah, in consultation with the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA), has given her in-principle approval.

Already, an unprecedented move was made earlier this year to dip into the past accumulated savings to the tune of $21 billion.

The amount far exceeds the $4.9 billion drawn in 2009 for the global financial crisis, although the final sum used was $4 billion.

Mr Heng said the $21 billion has gone towards saving jobs, keeping the economy going and giving direct aid to Singaporeans during this period.

Since then, the impact of the pandemic has deepened, with the number of coronavirus cases worldwide exceeding five million, and the death toll rising more than 340,000.

The number of cases in Singapore has crossed 30,000, with 23 dead, as the country prepares to lift restrictions on movements and business activities after a circuit breaker period that kicked in 50 days ago.

“Lives and livelihoods are at stake, and we are moving to secure our future,” said Mr Heng.

“After a challenging circuit breaker period, we are now preparing to reopen our economy. To do so in a safe and calibrated manner, and to continue to support our people, we are proposing a further draw on our past reserves.”

He added that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had met President Halimah to share the Government’s considerations.

Mr Heng, along with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, National Development Lawrence Wong, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah, who are all part of the multi-ministry task force set up to tackle the virus, had also briefed the CPA.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Madam Halimah had said: “Having deliberated and considered the recommendation of the CPA, I am satisfied that the fourth support package is necessary.”

Over the years, the Government’s strict adherence to the policy of not touching the past reserves has come under some criticism by those who feel more of it should be used to fund current needs.

Reiterating once again the importance of this policy, Mr Heng said the strategic asset, built up through the prudence and hard work of generations of Singaporeans, has been critical in allowing the country to respond comprehensively and robustly in the fight against Covid-19.

He pledged to deploy the money “in a deliberate manner, and at decisive moments”.

“I am grateful that we have the fiscal resources to mount this response, and the unity, resilience and solidarity of our people to battle this together. We have a responsibility to make the best use of these resources, to keep our people safe, to save jobs and transform businesses, and to emerge stronger,” he said.

“Every dollar that we have saved has been saved by careful counting over the years. In spending this national savings now, we must make every dollar spent count.”

Source: Read Full Article

UK weather: Met Office forecasts SIZZLING 28C highs in mini heatwave – latest charts

The UK is in the midst of a spell of warm, dry weather. Last week parts of the UK saw thundery showers and some strong winds, with a few Met Office weather warnings issued. However this week most of the UK will be basking in glorious heat and sunshine, according to the latest forecast.

Many Brits were greeted by sunny skies over the bank holiday weekend.

But in case you were wondering if the blissful conditions were just a blip, the Met Office predicts the warm weather is here to stay for at least the next week.

Met Office spokesperson Nicola Maxey told the UK will continue to see “warm and sunny” weather, with temperatures potentially creeping up over the course of the week.

For today’s forecast, Ms Maxey said: “We’re going to see dry sunny spells, warm particularly in the south and the south-east.


  • UK heatwave forecast: Long-range chart shows UK to bake for two weeks

“Quite a lot of sunshine around, some isolated showers in the far north, northwest, but really apart from that everybody is going to see a fairly warm dry sunny day.

“Today London could see temperatures of around 27C, Birmingham between 21 and 22C, and Edinburgh will maybe see 18C, Aberdeen 19C.”

The warm weather pattern looks likely to continue throughout the rest of the week and into the weekend.

Ms Maxey said: “It’s similar tomorrow (Wednesday), as we go through this week and into the weekend we’re going to see warm dry weather for most with temperatures improving slightly as we go through the week.

“By Friday we’re certainly looking at temperatures getting up into the mid-teens for Scotland and London seeing widely around 23 to 24C, but an isolated chance of seeing 27C.”

The warm weather will be spread across most of the UK over the coming days, with some parts of the UK forecast to see highs of 28C.

Ms Maxey said: “Quite widely across the country will see these high temperatures.

“Nottingham may see isolated highs of 27C, Norwich 26C, Birmingham quite widely 24C but an isolated chance of 28C.


Motorists could be fined up to £5,000 for driving in hot weather – INSIGHT
Pollen count: Three steps to reduce your risk of an asthma attack – EXPLAINER
Hot weather could have affected initial coronavirus spread in Wuhan – ANALYSIS


  • BBC Weather: Boiling 30C heat to grip western Europe – Heatwave hits

“The warmth is across the whole of the country really. We’re going to see this weather into the rest of the week and into the weekend.”

According to the Met Office, the recent warm spell of weather is due to a high-pressure system dominating UK weather patterns.

The arrival of a low-pressure system brought strong winds and thundery downpours for some regions of the country.

But the current high-pressure system is causing clear skies, allowing temperatures to build up and sunny spells to shine through.

Although confidence is lower for the weeks to come, the Met Office is predicting the good weather could also bleed into the start of next week.

The Met Office long-range forecast for Saturday, May 30 until Monday, June 8 reads: “Much of central and southeast England should see a good deal of dry and settled weather next weekend with plenty of sunshine, though a little breezy.

“Temperatures will generally be very warm, but there is the risk of some thunderstorms breaking out at times.

“Cloud and outbreaks of rain seem most likely for Scotland and some other northern and western areas, where it will probably feel cooler.”

Further on in the period, the Met Office forecast a “shift to a more unsettled regime at first”.

The Met Office added: “Cloud and spells of rain may spread to most parts of the UK, but will predominately remain in the northwest.

“Temperatures should return to around average and may go slightly below in places.”

Source: Read Full Article

LATAM becomes largest airline to file for bankruptcy amid coronavirus

(Reuters) – LATAM Airlines Group SA (LTM.SN) filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, becoming the largest carrier to seek an emergency reorganization amid the coronavirus crisis.

Latin America’s largest airline follows rival Avianca Holdings AVT_p.CN of Colombia in seeking U.S. bankruptcy protection.

But unlike Avianca, Chile’s LATAM posted profits for four consecutive years totaling more than $700 million. It had recently approved a dividend payment.

LATAM laid off 1,800 employees out of over 40,000 in the lead-up to its bankruptcy filing.

“We have implemented a series of difficult measures to mitigate the impact of this unprecedented industry disruption, but ultimately this path represents the best option,” CEO Roberto Alvo said in a statement regarding the filing.

LATAM is an instantly recognizable brand for South Americans, dominating international air travel in the region, as well as a leading domestic flight operator in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Peru and Ecuador.

Carriers in Latin America have sought bailouts to no avail so far, unlike rivals in the United States and Europe.]

LATAM will continue to fly while it is in bankruptcy protection. Its affiliates in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay were not included in the Chapter 11 filing.

In Brazil, LATAM for weeks has been negotiating a bailout of up to 2 billion reais ($367.45 million) that has yet to materialize.

If negotiations are successful, it could provide a lifeline to LATAM’s largest subsidiary.

Chile has so far declined to help LATAM.

LATAM said it had secured funding from major shareholders, including the Cueto family which controls the airline through various companies, the Amaro family and Qatar Airways, to provide up to $900 million to support operations through its bankruptcy reorganization.

Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N) last year paid $1.9 billion for a 20% stake during better times for the industry.

“To the extent permitted by law, the group would welcome other shareholders interested in participating in this process to provide additional financing,” the airline said, adding it had about $1.3 billion in cash on hand.

LATAM said that as of Tuesday it had $7.6 billion in debt, including $460 million in loans tied to its Brazilian subsidiary which is not part of the bankruptcy process.

The airline was downgraded by S&P and Fitch on Friday after the company confirmed it did not pay interest and principal on three tranches of 2015 $1 billion worth of debt tied to the financing of new aircraft purchases.

Source: Read Full Article

$33b set aside in Fortitude Budget, bringing Singapore's Covid-19 war chest to nearly $100 billion

SINGAPORE – Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday (May 26) announced a $33 billion supplementary Budget aimed primarily at helping workers and businesses to tide over the Covid-19 crisis and the bleak economic outlook ahead.

Called the Fortitude Budget, Singapore’s fourth Budget in less than four months sets aside $2.9 billion to extend job protection, including enhancements to the Job Support Scheme (JSS) that co-pays salaries to help firms retain workers. It also provides for the $3.8 billion that went towards measures announced on April 21 to tide Singaporeans over the four-week extension to the circuit breaker.

Together with the earlier Unity, Resilience and Solidarity Budgets, the Government is dedicating close to $100 billion – or nearly 20 per cent of GDP – to support Singaporeans in this battle against Covid-19, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who called it “a landmark package, and a necessary response to an unprecedented crisis”.

This Budget requires a draw of $31 billion from past reserves, for which President Halimah Yacob has given in-principle approval. Altogether, the Government is looking at drawing up to a total of $52 billion from past reserves this financial year to enable Singaporeans to tide over this crisis and emerge stronger, said Mr Heng.

Singapore’s economy has been deeply impacted by the global shocks caused by Covid-19, Mr Heng said as he introduced the Budget in Parliament.

He noted that the resident unemployment rate rose to 3.3 per cent in March, the highest in over a decade. The Ministry of Trade and Industry on Tuesday also further downgraded Singapore’s GDP growth forecast this year from -4 per cent to -1 per cent to between -7 per cent and -4 per cent.

But Mr Heng assured Singaporeans that the Government will protect every worker and try to preserve jobs in the midst of this crisis.

To do this, JSS payouts will be extended by one month to provide additional relief for firms as they safely reopen after the circuit breaker period, said Mr Heng, who is also finance minister. This means JSS payments will now be for 10 months, with firms receiving this additional support in October.

In total, the Government will disburse $23.5 billion to firms to support wage costs for 10 months, he said.

Businesses such as retail outlets, gyms and cinemas that cannot resume operations immediately after the circuit breaker period ends on June 1 will continue receiving 75 per cent wage support until August or when they are allowed to reopen, whichever is the earlier.

Firms, such as those in aerospace maintenance, will also be reclassified to a higher tier of JSS support following feedback from industry associations and businesses. Eligible firms will get back payments in July to top-up their previous JSS payouts.

The foreign worker levy waiver and rebate will also be extended for up to two months for businesses not allowed to resume operations on-site immediately after the circuit breaker is lifted on. This includes all firms in the construction, marine and offshore, and process sectors.

Beyond this, the Government will defer the planned increase in CPF contribution rates for senior workers by one year to January 2022, while extending rental relief for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through a cash grant to be disbursed through property owners.

Mr Heng said the Ministry of Law will introduce a Bill next week mandating that landlords contribute by granting a rental waiver to their SME tenants who have suffered a significant revenue drop in the past few months

As a landlord, the Government will also lead by example by providing two more months of rental waivers for commercial tenants and hawkers, and one more month of rental waiver for industrial, office and agricultural tenants, he added.

Households with at least one Singapore citizen will also get a one-off $100 Solidarity Credit to offset their utility bills, which is on top of the U-Save Special Payment that was previously announced.

Mr Heng also launched an SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package to create close to 100,000 opportunities in three areas: 40,000 jobs, 25,000 traineeships and 30,000 paid skills training places.

“While we will try to preserve jobs in the midst of this crisis, we cannot protect every job,” he said. “However, you have my assurance that the Government will protect every worker.”

“Our promise to workers is this: As long as you are willing to pick up new skills and adapt, to access available opportunities to work or learn, the Government will provide our strongest support to help you,” he said.

Source: Read Full Article

TikTok and a shoulder to cry on: why pupils in Gloucestershire wish lockdown school would never end

“We call it ‘strange school’,” says Caitlin, 15, slightly raising her voice across the the open space of the school hall where the pupils are carefully observing physical distancing. “Literally everything here is different now.”

Since lockdown, Caitlin has been coming to school five days a week, as she is among those whose schooling is considered a priority. With three younger siblings at home, she has to take on “a lot of responsibility for helping out”. Even in normal times, school is a haven for her. Over the past seven weeks it has become even more than that: an oasis of calm.

Rednock secondary is a specialist science college in the small market town of Dursley, Gloucestershire. This is not the affluent north Cotswolds of honeyed stone cottages, and the school is a typical comprehensive. Usually 1,500 students troop through its gates every morning. Today, 42 pupils are in.

At the moment there is one teacher to four students, which means pupils such as Caitlin can be given unprecedented tailored pastoral and academic support, without the usual pressures of time. “I think without school right now I’d be an emotional mess,” Caitlin says with a nervous smile. “It’s my GCSEs and I’m worried – we’re missing a massive chunk of learning. But I’ve had a teacher to help me whenever I’ve wanted. It’s given me that extra confidence.”

Here at Rednock, pupils have been encouraged to try a huge range of new creative and practical activities: knitting, Zumba, TikTok, baking, kite-making and sign language.

The school has ripped up timetables in a way no state school could normally contemplate. “We’ve said, we will be completely flexible to your needs,” says Kerala Cole, assistant headteacher. “We work in partnership with parents to personalise the deal for the students. It can be that they come in for just a couple of hours. And I think we are seeing huge benefits to that.”

One boy who had refused to attend for eight months, has been coming in every day, thanks to this flexibility and the attention he can now be given. Another year 8 child, “who arrived midway through this year and has been struggling … he’s been attending for four weeks now and he’s really benefited”, says Cole. “You can just see how his shoulders have relaxed.”

The gap in GCSE results between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and the rest is thought to be around 19 months and, without changes in policy priorities, at the current rate it will take 50 years to close, according to the Education Policy Institute thinktank.

Many fear children will fall even further behind during the pandemic, one reason the government gives for wanting to reopen schools to more pupils by 1 June. Rednock was hoping some 240 pupils would attend during lockdown, but numbers have been lower than expected.

The corridors of the school’s spacious modern building are hushed. Children walk around alone, and don’t wear uniform. For many, “strange school” has huge advantages. “Before, I had quite a few classmates who were really annoying and distracting, but now this new way, it’s quieter,” says Edie, 13.

“Teachers are ever so supportive, and it’s calmer because there’s not tonnes of people crowding around,” adds Molly, 11.

“There’s less people who intimidate other people,” says Alfie, 12, whose parents, both nurses, have been at work during the crisis. “You can be yourself more rather than be the person other people think you should be.” His mum has had Covid-19, he says, and has recovered.

Everyone nods. “Before, people used to sometimes judge you,” says Samira, 11. “You can sometimes have fake friends who really bring you down. This has given you a little bit of a break.”

Because the school is being so careful about physical distancing, I meet students in the hall, with one child per desk. This small group either have key-worker parents, are under the care of a social worker, have an education, health and care plan (EHCP) for their special needs, or are otherwise defined as “high priority” by their teachers. They miss their friends but, to a child, say they feel immense relief from the pressures of “normal” school.

“The teachers have more time to spend with you, and you get the help you need,” says Maisie, 12, whose mother works in food manufacturing. Samira agrees. “Teachers feel more like family now.” There is enthusiastic nodding from her schoolmates.

The headteacher, David Alexander, and Cole, went through their entire roll to identify pupils they felt should have the opportunity to attend – those who were vulnerable, although not in the government’s stated categories.

When the Covid-19 crisis finally ends, schools must never return to normal

“We want as many to come in as possible,” Alexander says. As schools closed across the country, Rednock staff telephoned 280 families to make sure they knew their child had a place. “Some parents and carers are hesitant,” Alexander acknowledges. “And some prefer to have their children at home.” But efforts are unstinting to support the 160 or so students who, Cole says, “we would class as vulnerable, and who we’d prefer to be in school but aren’t”.

Cole feels anxious for the welfare of some children who haven’t been seen for the past seven weeks. She is in regular contact with their social workers and, in some cases, the police. Teachers continue to check in, ringing some children weekly, some daily.

In school, staff are sensitive to new needs. “Some here have really difficult home lives and they feel safer in school. And they feel worried about their parents who are at work. We’ve had tears, shouting, aggression,” says Cole.

“Or they go quiet, or go off on their own,” adds Alexander. “Or you get over-the-top laughter, or clinginess,” says Cole.

When all students do come back, Alexander and Cole are hoping there will be lessons they can use from lockdown. They know, too, that the return of the hurley burley will affect the more vulnerable children.

And the pupils have mixed feelings about normal school resuming. Samira hopes there might be smaller classes, but says: “I’m not excited about going back – all the madness and screaming in corridors.” Molly agrees.: “It’ll probably be more stressful. Everything crowded again.”

Caitlin is looking to the positives. “I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on who I want to be when I’m older,” she says. “I can be quite negative, and this time has given me a break. The extra support from school means that I know even when things get tough – because we’re in a pandemic and I’m getting through it – I can get through other things now.”

Alexander and Cole emphasise that even in normal times this school tries to create a family atmosphere. But to these children, a caring school has never felt as much of a reality as it does now. There is no testing or targets, no pressure to achieve academically. They feel adults are there for them. And despite the immense stresses and limitations of living in a time of pandemic, they are blossoming.

* All children’s names have been changed.

Source: Read Full Article