Birch Wood’s head highlights special challenges posed by coronavirus

The head of a Melton school for children with special educational needs has been talking about the extra challenges her staff face during these difficult times.

Thursday, 11th June 2020, 3:28 pm
Rosalind Hopkins, head teacher at Birch Wood Area Special School EMN-201006-090921001

Around 40 youngsters are attending Birch Wood Area Special School every day and, because there is a rota, about 80 children enjoy some classroom time during the week.

The emphasis is on keeping everyone safe and limiting the spread of coronavirus, with teachers wearing masks, gowns and gloves because social distancing is almost impossible with the students they teach.

Head teacher Rosalind Hopkins told the Melton Times: “I can’t commend my staff highly enough, they have really shone and they are completely dedicated to meeting the needs of our children.

“It is challenging wearing PPE all day and it has been important that we give them breaks because it can become very hot and uncomfortable.”

There is a high teacher-pupil ratio to maintain the structure that the children like to have on a school day, particularly those diagnosed with autism.

There are separated play areas so that if there was a confirmed Covid-19 case in one of them it can be closed off.

Birch Wood was the first area special school to be opened in the county back in 2004. The younger children are taught at the original Grange Drive site and pupils aged 11 to 19 go to its Birch Wood Vale centre on Burton Road.

Mrs Hopkins said: “The social distancing is easier to put in place in our Birch Wood Vale site where the children have moderate learning difficulties.

“The children have actually renamed it as the ‘new personal space’.

“We do see it as an important part of their education to make them aware of what they need to do when they are away from school.”

Many Birch Wood children are unable to make it into school, though, because they are shielding due to having a vulnerable health condition, but they are not forgotten.

Mrs Hopkins added: “It is tough for the parents of those children who have to stay at home. So it is important we keep communicating and give them regular support online through Zoom and our family listening telephone service.”