STAFF at one of the country’s leading schools for children with special educational needs and disabilities have been briefing the Government on lessons learned through the pandemic.

Minister for Children, Young People and Families Vicky Ford paid Beaumont Hill Academy, Darlington, a virtual visit to hear about life under lockdown and coping with COVID.

The MP and a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Education spent time talking to senior management at Beaumont Hill Academy, which is part of the Education Village, and the trust’s chief executive.

Mrs Ford is responsible for the coronavirus response for children’s services and childcare as well as children’s social care, child protection, children in care, adoption, care leavers, special educational needs, early years policy, children’s centres, home learning, alternative provision, disadvantage and social mobility, children and young people’s mental health and online safety.

She spoke with Beaumont Hill’s principal Adrian Lynch, the executive principal Caroline Green and trust chief executive Mike Butler after being introduced by Darlington’s MP Peter Gibson.

The minister, who is overseeing a national review of SEND provision, heard that the school had remained open throughout the pandemic with a third of all pupils in classes when most schools were all but empty during the complete lockdown, with full attendance figures from the start of this term when the schools returned, the best ever experienced.

“She was keen to hear how we managed to bring this about,” Mr Butler said. “She also heard that our staff had gone into overdrive when the pandemic struck delivering food parcels, work packs, digital equipment and online learning from day one, which was of a very high quality, to ensure pupils remained engaged in their studies. I have been so humbled by our staff who always put the children and their families first.

“We also brought up the fact that the trust was having to cope with the huge costs of buying PPE and extra cleaning and sanitising equipment.”

Mr Lynch added: “The minister was very interested in how our curriculum is delivered, that we had been shortlisted for the prestigious national TES Awards and how pupils, staff and families had coped so well during the pandemic.”

Mrs Green said: “It was a real privilege to be able to speak directly with the minister about the challenges and a great opportunity to describe the amazing work our staff have been doing throughout the pandemic to ensure continuity of education and care for the children and young people we serve.”

Mr Gibson, who arranged the virtual meeting with the minister, said it had been highly productive.

He said: “I’m keen for the minister to witness first-hand the tremendous work that is done by schools across Darlington and the astounding ways in which they have responded to the ongoing pandemic, supporting young people across our town.”