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PARENT volunteers rallied round to help ensure students could safely return to Ripon Grammar School after nearly three months away as an extensive Covid-19 testing programme got underway. More than 40 additional helpers supported RGS staff in reassuring, advising and supervising students as the school began the monumental task of administering 2,790 lateral flow tests, then processing and recording the results, over six days of in-school testing.
Upper sixth form student Helena Da Costa said she was glad to have the test so she could return to RGS: “It is necessary and important to do it in order to get back to school.”
The 18-year-old, from outside Ripon, said: “It was very efficient, I thought it would take longer but it has been organised well and wasn’t too uncomfortable.”
She said she was now looking forward to getting back to normal classes: “It is easier to stay motivated in school. It’s my last year and it’s great to be able to get together with my friends and see everyone again.”
Parent volunteer Zita Branton, a magistrate from Burton Leonard, whose son is in lower sixth form, said the testing, carried out in the sports hall, was extremely well-organised: “It’s been so well-run, it’s like clockwork.
“All the students have been so polite and so pleasant, a little anxious but happy to do as they’re asked. This school has been so good to my children, I wanted to help out. It’s just so important we get the kids back to school.” Students returned in small, staggered groups to carry out their first sets of supervised tests in school, after which they will test themselves at home, as staff do, twice a week.
Deputy head Helen Keelan-Edwards said 40 volunteers, in addition to staff, were on site each day to help deliver the programme, getting through the 465 tests a day needed to enable students to return.
In-school testing has been recommended by the government for all secondary age pupils, followed by home testing.
Mrs Keelan-Edwards said she had been overwhelmed by the number of volunteers who came forward: “It has been absolutely amazing. – we can’t believe it. We’re really lucky with the parents we have and the support they give the school.
"We're also very proud of the maturity shown by all the students throughout the whole process."
Parent Karen McKeag, who was busy assisting students, reassuring them and guiding them through the process to make sure they get an accurate test result, said she was keen to do all she could to help: “The test might be a little unpleasant, but it’s quickly over.”
A self-employed bookkeeper from Grewelthorpe, with daughters in Year 10 and Year 12, she added: “I understand the importance of getting everyone back into school, it is crucial and if we can help speed up the process, that is great.”
Nick Disbury, from Ripon, with a son in Year 10 and a daughter in Year 13, agreed: “I’m very pleased to see them back. Socialising with friends online is not the same as face-to-face. And very close behind that is the academic side, they need to catch up quite quickly.”
He added: “I’m a great believer in parental support for school. It makes a great difference and takes a little pressure off the teaching and other staff.”
Vet Sian Statham, from Sawley, with a daughter in upper sixth and son in Year 11, was processing the lateral flow tests: “I came in because I really want to get the kids back to school. They are really excited about it.”
Angela Simmerson, who has a daughter in lower sixth, said: “We all want to get our children back to school if we can, anything we can do to help them back is a good thing.”
The physiotherapist from Markington added: “My daughter can’t wait to come back, she’s delighted to be able to see her friends. And they need to be in proper lessons instead of in their bedroom on a computer – it’s not the same.”
Trainee counsellor Helen Preece, from Ripon, who has a daughter in upper sixth and another in Year 11, said she was keen to do anything she could to help get children back to school.
Programme manager Andy Tadd, from Studley Roger, agreed: “It’s something that’s got to be done to get them back to school and I’m happy to help.”
Student Aaron Manku, 17, from Leeds confessed he found the whole experience a little 'weird': “It was slightly uncomfortable, but we have to do it and I’m happy to do it. It’s definitely going to be better being back in school and being with my friends again.”
Hannah Burfield, 16, from Scunthorpe, said: “The thought of it was worse than the test itself. It wasn’t that bad, just slightly uncomfortable. It’s definitely a positive thing to do, it makes things safer and reassures me about coming back to school. I am just so glad to be back and seeing everyone again.”
Benedict Dunn, 15, from outside Ripon, found the whole process very efficient: “I was in and out in a few minutes and had a lady help me. It wasn’t painful, just slightly uncomfortable and I was very happy to have it done.
“I am glad to see all my friends again. Everyone is in the same boat, we will all get used to it.”
Education leaders have put together some fun family activities to encourage children away from computer screens for the half-term holidays.
The move to remote education during lockdown, coupled with dark, winter evenings, has meant many children are spending more time than usual on tablets or laptops.
With the start of the half-term holidays, education leaders in North Yorkshire have come up with some ideas for families wanting to use the holidays for a digital detox.
Barlby Community Primary School, in Barlby near Selby, is encouraging children to take part in Blue Peter activities which involve them completing tasks set by the CBBC programme and then applying for a badge. Children can first apply for a blue badge by sending in interesting letters, stories, makes pictures and poems and for good ideas for the programme. Once they’ve received a blue badge, they can then apply for a silver badge by taking part in different tasks.
Jillian Baker, Head teacher of Barlby Community Primary School said: “We are hoping the children will complete a task and apply for a Blue Peter Badge this half term break.
“There are eight to achieve and all can be achieved away from the screen. We have many children in school who have already earned at least one badge if not more, and we have celebrated their success in school.
“Applying for the badge also involves physically going to a post box and posting their letter, rather than emailing.”
Other ideas include:
Head teacher of Mill Hill Primary in Northallerton, Rebecca Bainbridge, said she hoped families could take some time to unwind together this half-term, whether it was by sharing books, playing, cooking or creating; “As we head into the half term we hope that our families will take some time to relax and unwind. It has been a hard half term of work commitments, home learning and digital access and I am so impressed with the effort and sheer resilience from everyone.
“We hope that over the next week our families will take the chance to unwind – sharing books and stories, wrapping warmly up for walks, doing the things together which make them laugh and smile, whether it’s cooking, making, playing or creating, and, perhaps just as importantly, planning for all of these wonderful things that we will be able to do together when all of this over.
“The end is in sight and we just want everyone to hang in there while signs of spring appear and a more normal way of life reemerges.”
Cllr Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education and Skills said: “We know the last few weeks have been hard for families, with many trying to juggle working from home and helping children with school work. It’s been especially tough through the dark nights of January and February.
“Schools have tried to balance online learning with off-line activities, but it’s inevitable that lockdown has meant children are spending much more time than they normally would at a computer.
“Encouraging children to spend time away from their laptops and tablets is much easier if you can draw their attention to other fun activities, so I hope parents find our suggestions useful.”
For more ideas on half-term activities for Key Stage 1 children, in lower primary school visit;
Key Stage 2 children; attending upper primary school;
Key Stage 3, lower secondary school age;
North Yorkshire Police is to move into a new home in Pateley Bridge providing a modern base for the local policing team and saving money that can be reinvested in keeping the community safe and feeling safe.
From Monday 22 February, the existing police station on King Street will close and officers will co-locate with Harrogate Borough Council in their offices just across the road. There will be no change to the front counter service which is based separately at the Nidderdale Plus office located centrally in the town.
The decision to move the base and put the current police station up for sale, made in consultation with the Chief Constable, is part of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner’s commitment to delivering value for money for taxpayers.
Julia Mulligan is committed to working with other public and third sector services to reduce costs and sell underused buildings with proceeds invested in frontline, visible policing. The principle of co-location has already been successfully implemented, including in Ripon, Thirsk, Selby, Bedale and Masham.
Pateley Bridge police station is a large building that is expensive to run at a time when new mobile technology means officers and staff do not need to spend as much time at a desk. The move is ultimately expected to save £19,000 per year.
Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, said:
“By co-locating North Yorkshire Police with Harrogate Borough Council in Pateley Bridge we will achieve value for money for the taxpayer with no change to the access available for Nidderdale residents to our policing teams in the area.
“Selling the police station will also reduce the amount we have to spend on upkeep of an large and underused property and the proceeds will be reinvested in frontline, visible policing which I know is the priority of most people in and around Pateley Bridge and across North Yorkshire.”
Inspector Alex Langley, of the Harrogate Outer Neighbourhood Policing Team, added:
“We are delighted to be moving into our new base at Pateley Bridge alongside our Harrogate Borough Council colleagues.
“It is just across the road from the old Pateley Bridge Police Station, so it will be very easy for residents to adjust to the change in location.
“Importantly, we are also continuing to run our front counter services at the Nidderdale Plus office as before.
“Our new facilities ensure an effective, efficient and sustainable neighbourhood policing service is provided to the people of Pateley Bridge for many years to come.”
The current station is not open to the public, with the front counter service being provided at the Nidderdale Plus office on Station Square. This service will remain unchanged, meaning it is open to the public on Mondays 10am – 6pm, Tuesdays to Fridays 10am – 4pm, and at weekends from 10am – 1pm.
As the school half-term break arrives, families are urged to keep up the great effort to bring down the Covid-19 infection rate and not to be tempted to head to the countryside or coast.
The appeal comes after figures reveal that more than 1,000 people have now died from Covid-19 in North Yorkshire.
Infection rates are reducing only slowly across the county. More than 100 new cases are being reported each day. At the end of last month, the average number of deaths exceeded seven a day, the highest daily rate in the county since the start of the pandemic. Twelve people died on 2 February, the highest daily total of the pandemic.
North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum (NYLRF), which brings together councils, emergency services and health organisations to tackle the pandemic, is urging people to explore their local areas during the break and not to travel to visit the county’s national parks during half-term, not to travel to the dales, moors or coast for walks or other activities and not to mix indoors with people outside their household.
North Yorkshire Police has reiterated its commitment to encouraging people to follow the rules, but emphasised that officers will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those who flout them.
Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health, said: “There is no room for complacency. Infection rates are coming down, but only very slowly, so no-one should be lulled into a false sense of security. Rates could quickly shoot up again if we do not remain vigilant.
“I know how difficult this time is, the pressure that families are under and the desire to see loved ones, but please do not do so. The virus spreads when people mix with each other, so please don’t break the rules.
“One in three people carry Covid-19 with no symptoms, so even if you feel fine you might be carrying the infection and be able to spread it. Don’t take that risk by travelling miles from your home to the coast or countryside. Last weekend in the Lake District, a mountain rescuer suffered life-changing injuries while trying to help a camper who had breached Covid rules.
“Stick with the fabulous efforts we have seen from so many people throughout the pandemic, keep doing the right thing and we can keep the numbers heading in the right direction – downwards.”
Richard Flinton, chair of NYLRF, said: “We know this is really hard. This lockdown feels like a slog and we may well be feeling weary from the restrictions under which we must live.
“With the arrival of half-term, many families will struggle with how to entertain children not at school or involved in remote learning. It may be tempting to mix with friends or head to the coast or dales. Please don’t – the risk is not worth taking. Think of the 1,006 people who have died from Covid-19 in our county and please keep going, keep sticking to the rules, keep protecting your family and your community.
“There is real hope via the vaccination programme. There is light for us to head towards.”
Superintendent Mike Walker, North Yorkshire Police lead for the force’s Covid response, said: “Our hearts and our thoughts go out to everyone who has lost someone to this virus.
“Many of us will now know someone who has been effected by coronavirus. We’ll know of the loss of a mother or father, a husband, wife or partner, a sister, a brother or a child. Or we’ll have heard of the fear that many have felt when they have seen a loved one taken into hospital – saying goodbye to them, wondering if they will come home again.
“That feeling is something myself and my colleagues are working around the clock to try to prevent as many people as possible from experiencing. We remain committed to following our approach of encouraging people to follow the rules and we will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those who openly flout them.
“Half term holidays are fast approaching and after juggling the stresses and strains of working from home and home-schooling, there may be the temptation to get out of the house and take a family day trip to the coast, or visit a Dales beauty spot. But now is not the time.
“As a father myself, I completely understand what families are going through and the pressures parents, carers and our children are under. But we must remain vigilant to the threat this virus still poses. Take your daily exercise, but stay local to your town or village and don’t drive multiple miles to access open spaces, when you can take exercise from your doorstep.
“Officers will be patrolling and we will be visiting popular tourist spots. We will be proactive in engaging with members of the public, asking the reason for their journey and we will take enforcement action if anyone is outside their home without a reasonable excuse. So please save yourselves a wasted trip and £200 and stay home and stay local.”
People in the Harrogate and Whitby areas are invited to give their views on proposals to enhance facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.
North Yorkshire County Council has received £1,011,750 from the Department for Transport’s Active Travel Fund to improve the infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians.
The grant, which must be spent during the 2021/22 financial year, is earmarked to fund work along four corridors to improve access to the town centres for cyclists and pedestrians, allowing for more space for social distancing.
In Whitby, the proposal is for a corridor to connect the Whitby Park and Ride site at Victoria Farm with Whitby town centre. The route would be along Guisborough Road and Mayfield Road. At Prospect Hill, it is anticipated users would continue to the town centre along local routes.
In the Harrogate area, three cycle improvement corridors are proposed:
County Councillor Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access, said: “To help us to develop our proposals, we are inviting local people to give us their views on the proposed corridors and potential improvements. Detailed designs will follow, taking account of the feedback we receive, and we will consult further on those later in March.”
The County Council bid for the funding last summer, after assessing 300 schemes across the county, including some received from the public, interest groups and county councillors.
Cllr Mackenzie said: “The grant comes with strict conditions. Schemes must be delivered quickly, should reallocate road space from vehicles in favour of cyclists and pedestrians, and offer alternatives to existing, well-used bus routes. All 300 schemes put forward were assessed within the limitations of timescale and cost. Many exceeded by large margins the funding available. While this meant that a number of very worthwhile proposals had to be omitted this time, we are confident that there will be many more funding opportunities for them in future.”
People are invited to give their comments by completing an online survey, which will run until 23 February 2021.
Paper copies of the survey are available on request from the county council’s customer services on 01609 780780.
Covid-19 lockdown restrictions mean it is not possible to hold public consultation events.
The Active Travel Fund allocation is the second phase of funding from the Department for Transport following the Covid-19 lockdown last March. The first phase supported temporary infrastructure to aid social distancing. The Active Travel Fund is part of a £2bn five-year sustainable travel package from the Government.