The new school year has now begun with some pupils starting school for the first time. Some have transitioned to one of our excellent secondary schools and some students have moved up to sixth form or college.
Talking to teachers this week, all of them have told me how important those five weeks at the end of last term were to get our young peoples’ education back on track and allow them to catch up where they had lagged behind.
Due to the efforts of you in stopping the spread of COVID-19 schools were able to lay on Proms and give those sixth formers who had worked so hard to study for exams which never took place, a decent farewell and celebration of their achievements.
This week teachers have been working with officers from the department to draw up comprehensive contingency plans to deal with all eventualities. I would like to thank them for their help and support devising strategies that meet the needs of our people and our island.
But some students going to universities across for the first time or returning to continue their studies have already started to leave.
As a Department we have been in contact with Universities across. Each has found their own way to maintain educational opportunities and use new ways of learning whilst keeping students safe.
You don’t have to be a parent to imagine the challenges students face leaving our island to live in the UK or Ireland. But they are resilient and will adapt to a different new normal depending where they are in the country.
The health situation in the UK is changing rapidly and there are concerns about lockdowns and restrictions on gatherings and movement.
As a department and as a Government we will do everything possible to guarantee the safety of our students abroad.
The Chief Minister has already detailed further proposed changes to our border policy. A border policy that has helped keep us safer on the Island but has inevitably restricted us from freely visiting friends and family across or inviting them here to join us.
I would like to reassure students that we intend never to have to close our borders completely again as we did in March. If students have to return early we will help them get home. If movement is restricted in the UK we will work with Governments across to enable our students to be repatriated.
We are in a much better place than in March. Investment in on-Island testing and a comprehensive track and trace system means we can manage the return of our residents whilst minimising the risk to the wider community of them unwittingly bringing the virus back.
But to prepare for all eventualities I would like to remind students and their families to register now to travel back in the future. Please go on the Gov.im website to obtain the certification you need to apply for a landing card when you need to return.
I and all the staff at the Department, teachers and all those key individuals who maintain our schools, nurseries and college are committed to the safety of our pupils.
We will ensure that the education of our young people is maintained but that their safety and the safety of all staff is our main priority.
Turning on the TV news can be depressing and anxiety can be contagious. But by working together we can ensure that our students and their families are kept safe and that our island life will prevail.