‘Lots of smiles’: South Tyneside schools report happy pupils and high test compliance rates on first day back

High test compliance rates have been reported by headteachers across South Tyneside, as schoolchildren begin their return to borough classrooms today.

All but the most vulnerable pupils and children of essential workers had been learning remotely since the first week of January, when Lockdown 3 was announced in an effort to curb a sharp spike in Covid-19 infection rates through December.

Primary schools in South Tyneside returned to in-person classes on Monday, March 8, while secondary pupils are returning in a phased way over the course of the week.

Three of the four borough schools the Gazette spoke to reported testing compliance levels of around 90 percent.

Ken Gibson, the head teacher at Harton Academy in South Shields

Ken Gibson, the head teacher at Harton Academy in South Shields, said the school had managed to test almost 500 students today.

"We’ve managed to test 465 students today – all of whom are due to return for teaching tomorrow,” he said.

"We’re delighted with how it's gone. We’ve had Years 11, 12 and 13 tested today and then tomorrow we’ve got Years 9 and 10 tested and due to return on Wednesday.

"Years 7 and 8 will be tested on Wednesday and back on Thursday. We tested the key worker children, which was about 103 tests, on Friday.

"The staff have been magnificent. It was a very smooth, military-style operation and I’m very happy with the outcome.”

St Joseph’s Academy in Hebburn similarly reported a ‘really good, positive return’.

Headteacher Peter Mitchell said: "We got the initial testing out of the way last week and the final two year groups, Years 8 and 9, will be tested on Wednesday with a Thursday return.

"The school hall’s been redesigned as a testing hub. We’ve had specialist teachers in to help with the effort, who’ve all been superb.

"Compliance rates have also been through the roof – above 90%. And things have been really good in terms of mask-wearing – there’s been no push-back on that at all.

"It’s been a very busy day. But it’s been a really good, positive return on the whole – it’s been excellent.”

Denise Todd, the head teacher Ashley Primary School in South Shields, said: “It’s been fantastic to see all of the kids back.

"Our numbers quadrupled today. We’ve put a one-way system in place, along with other measures to help make sure the whole process is as safe as it can possibly be.

“Parents and carers have been really supportive of all of this. And the kids all seemed really happy to be back to day – there’s been lots of smiles and happiness.

"Looking out the window again at playtime, it was lovely seeing them all play together again.”

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