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Meet Sam Connor, 33, is a teacher living in Morpeth, Northumberland.

Sam Connor

25.05.21

“I’m trying to focus not on what our children have potentially lost out on, but what they’ve gained. Resilience, deeper family connections, problem-solving skills, online learning and much more.”

Sam Connor, 33, works at King Edward VI School, Morpeth as an associate assistant headteacher. Originally from Northern Ireland, Sam moved to the North East ten years ago, teaching first in Durham before moving to Morpeth. He is married to Natalie and has three young children, Lucah, 7, Raphael, 6 and Rocco, 3.

“It was great to enjoy some quality family time this February half term. We made the most of staying at home from building snowmen in the back garden to baking, crafting and, the kids favourite, Disney or Pixar movie nights. The children also got the chance to catch up with our wider family and show them over Zoom what they’d been making. It was a lot of fun and a great break for us all.

Reflecting on everything we’ve been through so far has made me realise that Covid is something that’s always going to be part of our day-to-day lives. Moving forward we have to learn how to live with Covid. Not just as a region, or a country but the whole world. We’ve become so used to ‘hands, face and space’ I feel maintaining it going forwards can only be a positive. Not only can we fight Covid but it can have a much wider impact on our overall health and wellbeing for years to come. We have the opportunity to take what we’ve learnt from Covid and build a better future.

I know we all feel tired, anxious about the future and eager to see our loved ones but I’d like to thank everyone for continuing to play their part. It feels like as a collective the region has said “you’re not going to beat us”. Whatever the future holds I hope we can continue to build and draw from our resilient approach.

Living and working in Morpeth you can see the economic impact of the pandemic on what was once a vibrant town centre. A lot of shops are now empty. Although there is uncertainty, it’s been promising to see the grit and determination of both national and local businesses who’ve opted to go online as well as restaurants and cafes utilising ‘at home’ kits and takeaway orders. I’ll be shopping local and doing all I can to support our shops once the economy reopens.

As a parent of three children under 10-years-old, I’m conscious of the lasting impact Covid is going to have on them. Take Roco, our 3-year-old, for a third of his life he’s been in lockdown. It’s crazy. As parents, myself and Natalie, like many others, have tried to shield the kids from the hardships of the pandemic by taking them on ourselves. They are aware of what’s going on but we’ve tried to ensure that they don’t feel worried or anxious. It’s so hard. I know for Lucah, 7, and Raphael, 6, Covid will shape them and this time will stick with them.

It’s important not to focus on what our children have potentially lost out on but what they’ve gained. Resilience, deeper family connections, problem-solving skills, online learning and much more.

I know many of my students are concerned about their future careers. My message to those feeling the same is while we are in a period of uncertainty, things will change and you can take charge of your future. The job market is always competitive but you can work on what will make you stand out. Despite lockdown, there are still opportunities from volunteering for a charity, writing a blog or learning new skills via online platforms. Each new experience can help you develop your character, understanding of the world, personal skills and allow you in interviews to talk about something you're proud of - to help you make your mark.”

18.02.21

“It’s been an intense term for both students and teachers. I hope everyone is taking the opportunity to relax and recharge.”

Sam Connor, 33, works at King Edward VI School, Morpeth as an associate assistant headteacher. Originally from Northern Ireland, Sam moved to the North East ten years ago, teaching first in Durham before moving to Morpeth. He is married to Natalie and has three young children, Lucah, 7, Raphael, 6 and Rocco, 3.

“I can’t believe it’s February half term. It’s been an intense term for both students and teachers. I hope everyone is taking the opportunity to relax and recharge. I’d like to encourage students to unplug and reduce their screen time. I know it’s hard but it’s important. Make the most of family time. Exercise outside in your local area.

I know it’s tempting to meet friends. Usually, we’d encourage students to but this year we’re still fighting to beat Covid. Please be mindful of all the progress we’ve made so far and help stop the spread of the virus by strictly following the Covid rules. You can play your part in making going back to the classroom a reality as well as protect your friends and their families. You can still do so much at home to enjoy your well-deserved break while staying safe.

At home, I’ve been enjoying much-needed family downtime with Natalie and the kids. It’s been nice to just be dad. Lucah and I have stuck to our new year's resolution to learn to play the piano and it’s great to learn new songs together. She is really coming along. As well as walks in our neighbourhood we’ve had fun playing board games with the kids, baking, cinema nights and building dens in their bedrooms. While we can’t go anywhere we’re making the most of being at home.

The half-term break has helped Natalie and I get back into the swing of planning ahead of shopping and batch cooking. I know it’s convenient to just pop to the shops, and the supermarkets are well stocked, but I’d urge people to only visit their local supermarket when it's essential. If you can, do one big shop a week. By shopping smart you can cook smart. We’ve even found it’s helped us to save money.

This week Natalie and I have been talking to the kids about Captain Sir Tom Moore. Alongside his phenomenal fundraising for the NHS and touching the lives of so many affected by Covid he also connected with the younger generation. After seeing him on the news and us talking about his life at home the kids feel like they know him. I feel his name has now turned into a symbol of hope. His legacy will be the power of taking action working together to make positive change - no matter how big or small.

Vaccinations have also been the focus of family chats around the dinner table. Both sets of grandparents are waiting to hear when they’ll be getting theirs. We’ve tried to explain things the best we can to the kids and they’re happy it will mean one day we’ll get to visit them again. Not just yet, but hopefully later this year. The success of the vaccine roll-out is tremendous and gives me a growing cautious sense of relief.

I’m proud of the UK’s vaccine roll-out but it’s just one of the many tools we’ll have to rely on in order to learn how to live with Covid. While we’re starting to see the vaccinations initial impact on the stats we have to stay vigilant. We have to do everything we can to help continue to reduce the spread of the virus, the strain on the NHS and help save lives. Together we can beat Covid.”

11.02.21

“I want to reassure students, your future isn’t cancelled. Working together we can help you achieve your ambitions and future aspirations - no matter the challenges.”

Sam Connor, 33, works at King Edward VI School, Morpeth as an associate assistant headteacher. Originally from Northern Ireland, Sam moved to the North East ten years ago, teaching first in Durham before moving to Morpeth. He is married to Natalie and has three young children, Lucah, 7, Raphael, 6 and Rocco, 3.

“It’s been all systems go this week. We’ve been running virtual parents evenings for Year 9 students to discuss their GCSE choices. Holding virtual meetings has enabled us to be flexible, streamlined and crucially, be on hand to reassure those feeling anxious about the future.

As a school, quality careers advice is something we didn't want to sacrifice during the pandemic. Going digital has proven to be hugely beneficial. Each Year 9 student has received bespoke guidance. Based on their personal goals teachers have discussed the options available to them, along with their parents or carers. I want to reassure students, especially those in exam years, that your future isn’t cancelled. Working together we can help you achieve your ambitions and future aspirations - no matter the challenges.

It’s coming up to just over a year now of the pandemic and I know we’re all feeling tired, myself included. As a teacher, the Prime Minister’s announcement of a phased reopening of schools from Monday 8th March brings an overriding feeling of tentative relief. There’s nothing teachers want more right now than to return to the classroom. But only if we can ensure the safety of our staff, their families, students, parents and carers. The safety and wellbeing of everyone in school is our top priority.

While we’re awaiting clarity on how returning to school will work, I’d like to reassure our school community that we’ll be ready. We have an efficient staff testing programme in place, we’re following the latest guidance and the two-week notice period will allow us to make and implement robust plans.

At school, we’re already taking all of the necessary measures to stay safe within the workplace. Good communication is the key to staying vigilant. It’s simple things from not sharing a pen to ensuring colleagues stay two metres apart. It’s important to keep repeating the hands, face and space message, even during breaks, and not become complacent.

At home, this month is turning out to be quite busy with Valentine's Day, Shrove Tuesday and February half-term all coming up. For Valentine’s Day, I think we’ll bake some treats with the kids and then my wife Natalie and I will order an Italian for two with a bottle of wine. The kids love pancakes so I think having them for both breakfast and dessert will be in order, with all  the toppings! For me, it has to be melted Mars bar while the pancakes are still hot.

While February half-term this year will be spent at home, our perfect day out would be a trip to Bamburgh beach. We’d walk from Bamburgh to Seahouses with the kids and the dogs and meet up with family and friends. There’s nothing better than fish and chips followed by an ice cream (even if it is freezing!) while you look out on the stunning coastline. Thinking back on days like that always makes me smile. I can’t wait to go back after lockdown.”

04.02.2021

“I have such admiration for everyone in the NHS and social care. They do a phenomenal job but they can’t do it alone. We have to show our appreciation by helping to reduce the spread of the virus.”

Sam Connor, 33, works at King Edward VI School, Morpeth as an associate assistant headteacher. Originally from Northern Ireland, Sam moved to the North East ten years ago, teaching first in Durham before moving to Morpeth. He is married to Natalie and has three young children, Lucah, 7, Raphael, 6 and Rocco, 3.

“Hearing that the UK had reached the 100,000 milestone of Covid deaths hit home how serious the situation is. The sadness and loss is unfathomable. These grim figures following the news that the UK variant may be linked to the increased death rate,it’s scary.

We have to treat the science and figures with respect. Our new situation is clear. To save lives, stay home. Keep on wearing a mask, washing your hands and staying 2-metres apart. These may seem like small gestures, but acting like you’ve got the virus is essential. I have such admiration for everyone in the NHS and social care. They do a phenomenal job but they can’t do it alone. We have to show our appreciation by helping to reduce the spread of the virus.

We all breathed a sigh of relief on hearing the Health Secretary’s promise that schools and parents will be given at least two week's notice ahead of schools reopening. It gives us crucial time to prepare.

I can’t thank everyone enough for their support and positivity. A special thanks has to go to our catering staff who’ve been keeping me going on days I lose track of time and pop in mid-afternoon for a snack having missed lunch - they’re superstars. One thing we’re conscious of for those of us still in school is keeping our guard up with social distancing while on duty. It’s really easy to forget when you’re in your work environment, having a chat and getting a little too close. So it’s important to remember to give each other space when we’re at work.

While we’re conscious students want to know when they can return to the classroom, we’re also aware of the questions our exam students have, in particular Years 11 and 13. Consultations are still ongoing but I want to reassure students. Your teachers know just how hard you’ve worked, not just the past year, but throughout your time with us. Please trust in us that we will do everything we can to ensure you get the recognition you deserve.

I like to think I’m always the person to keep smiling no matter the situation. While I always maintain a positive attitude, busy days do get to me. That’s why I’m so thankful to my wife Natalie for keeping me grounded. She helps me switch from teacher mode to family.

To show her my gratitude, once the kids are in bed I’ve treated us to a meal from Cafe 21. It’s been a real treat. While we can’t socialise at the moment, supporting local restaurants has allowed us to create the same experience at home. I’ve also recently discovered Caribe Coffee Co. which has a roastery in Morpeth which I never knew about. It’s amazing the variety of independent businesses right on our doorstep across the North East.

At home, my daughter Lucah, and I have been learning to play the piano together. I’ve always regretted giving the piano up as a kid. Now Lucah is 7-years-old I thought it’d be a great time to learn again. So far it’s my longest-running resolution as she never lets me forget to practice. I’m not doing too badly but she is coming along brilliantly - I think part of it is because she’s desperate to learn Mama Mia to sing-along to on the piano. It’s been great to learn something new and spend some quality time together.”

29.01.21

“My plea to the North East is to please keep following the lockdown rules. The vaccine is just one of many factors that contribute to a Covid free future.”

Sam Connor, 33, works at King Edward VI School, Morpeth as an associate assistant headteacher. Originally from Northern Ireland, Sam moved to the North East ten years ago, teaching first in Durham before moving to Morpeth. He is married to Natalie and has three young children, Lucah, 7, Raphael, 6 and Rocco, 3.

This week Sam reflects on new challenges at school, getting tested, his thoughts on the vaccination roll out and his plea to the North East to keep working together.

“I can’t believe we’re already more than halfway through January. At home, we’ve got into the flow of our new family routine. The snow meant at the weekend we could play outside and build snowmen. It’s been nice to enjoy family downtime while things are so busy at work.

In my role, I’ve been particularly mindful of the challenges both teachers and students are facing outside the school day. There’s nothing better than seeing a student online, having a conversation with them and having them show you their work. Students are doing a great job in continuing their learning, we all know this can be a challenge. Indeed, many teachers are delivering lessons while homeschooling themselves, so we are all understanding of everyone’s differing situations. What’s important is connection. I want students to feel like they can contact their teachers, to share how they’re feeling and any concerns they might have. We’re all in this together.

My students really have made me smile this week. Nothing makes me happier than when, during their art classes, they hold up their latest project with great pride. While it is school work, I hope it brings them a sense of achievement and brightens up their day.

It’s been fantastic to experiment with a more interactive online learning experience. Being able to go digital has been a lifeline but as a school, we’re also conscious of everyone’s increased screen time. Which is why we’re talking to students and parents about online safety, etiquette and screen time. We’re encouraging parents to keep a watchful eye, talk to their children and at the end of the day close both the books and the screen. It’s something we could all benefit from as we’re increasingly online to work, shop and connect.

This week at school I had my first Innova lateral flow test and it came back negative. It was quite poignant as at the weekend I found out one of my cousins, who is a deputy headteacher at a primary school, tested positive for Covid. He is poorly but thankfully isn’t in hospital. It did bring it home for me. So it’s reassuring that staff in school are now being tested every week. It is a really simple process and hopefully an effective way to reduce the spread of the virus.

Watching the vaccine roll out coverage I felt a great sense of pride for what we as a country have achieved so far, in such a short time frame. I’d like to thank everyone involved. The vaccine roll out truly is a remarkable feat. The vaccine is just one of many factors that contribute to a Covid free future though. We’ve got to keep sticking to the rules, it’s the only way forward.

You only have to look at the UK’s death rate, reaching nearly 100,000, to be reminded of how serious the situation still is. It’s not something I like to dwell on but I feel it’s important that we have a realistic outlook when making decisions. I’m extremely grateful and lucky that the figures don’t include my family or friends. But, I’m conscious walking down my street there’ll be many who have lost loved ones to Covid. Everything we do can impact on others. By acting like you have the virus you can not only protect yourself, your family and friends but your whole community.

21.01.21

“I know homeschooling is a challenge for many parents (including me!) Please don’t be too hard on yourself. You are doing a great job.”

Sam Connor, 33, works at King Edward VI School, Morpeth as an associate assistant headteacher. Originally from Northern Ireland, Sam moved to the North East ten years ago, teaching first in Durham before moving to Morpeth. He is married to Natalie and has three young children, Lucah, 7, Raphael, 6 and Rocco, 3.

This week he shares how he’s coping with the third lockdown, rolling out the testing programme at school and his advice for children and parents who are homeschooling.

“The first week of the new lockdown has felt like I’ve stepped back in time, to be honest. The main difference is we know what to do and what we can expect. Having that insight is great as it means we’ve been able to plan, but on the other hand, knowing the difficulties we’re likely to face is daunting.

At school, I’ve been carrying out staff training to roll out the Innova lateral flow test. All staff in the school are now being tested every week. It’s been a huge challenge but we now have a smooth process in place which I hope will reassure both teachers and school staff. We hope initial testing will help to reduce the spread of the virus and build pupils, staff and parents confidence.

On a personal level, the biggest challenge as a family with this lockdown is the weather. In the spring, the kids played in the garden and we went out for regular walks. To combat this we’re trying to make the most of staying in by planning fun pizza, game or movie nights. The kids love it.

I know homeschooling is a challenge for many parents (including me!) and I wanted to share my advice as a teacher. First of all, if you don’t have access to broadband or a device, please contact your school. We’re here to support you and offer advice. Please don’t let access be a barrier as there’s always help available.

Create a routine that reflects the school day starting with a good breakfast, breaks in between classes and most importantly, at the end of the day, put away the books. A good routine helps ensure we’re eating well, drinking enough water, taking breaks and creates a clear distinction between school and hometime. It can also help break down what can feel like a daunting week of work into manageable chunks.

The key is to concentrate on what you can achieve, congratulate yourself on what you have been able to do and anything leftover can be picked up the next day. Yes, the work is important but not over you and your child’s wellbeing. We’re not expecting miracles from parents. Teachers are professionally trained and still, we’re figuring out how best to adapt to new ways of teaching. Please don’t be too hard on yourself. You are doing a great job.

I know right now, after such a challenging year, how tempting it is to allow our frustrations to get on top of us. We’re all fed-up of the situation which we thought would be better in 2021 but for me, it’s all about trying to pull out the positives. No matter how small. Whether it’s trying to cook something new, spending more quality family time together or finding a new walk in your local area. By staying at home we’re all helping to save lives.

When we can see friends and family again I can’t wait to go out for a meal to catch up with everyone and celebrate. To go out on a big family weekend adventure and never again take for granted the freedom to go out and explore. Our very first trip will be to visit family in Northern Ireland on the farm. I can’t wait to see my mum and dad again and for the kids to get to hug their grandparents. Seeing them through a screen is getting tougher and being able to be together face-to-face again is going to be a special day.”

14.01.21

“While there’s much we can’t control in this situation, we all can follow the rules to protect our communities and loved ones. Hands, face, space - I know it’s ingrained in everyone’s minds but it is the key to fighting Covid alongside the vaccine.”

Sam Connor, 33, works at King Edward VI School, Morpeth as an associate assistant headteacher. Originally from Northern Ireland, Sam moved to the North East ten years ago, teaching first in Durham before moving to Morpeth. He is married to Natalie and has three young children, Lucah, 7, Raphael, 6 and Rocco, 3.

This week he reflects on Christmas with his family, what he’s learnt from 2020 and how he feels about the third national lockdown.

“Christmas and New Year were much smaller celebrations than normal but we still were able to make it special for the children. On Christmas Day granny and grandpa stayed with us until lunchtime and for New Year we held a mini countdown at 9pm before their bedtime. There were lots of video calls with family and friends to bring in 2021.

Over the festive break, I was delighted to find out that my brother David, an A&E frontline consultant, received his first dose of the vaccine. It’s helped to put all our minds at ease knowing he can continue to help those in need safely. For me, seeing the pictures of him getting the vaccine brought a glimmer of hope that things will get better.

Hearing the third lockdown announcement I felt split. In one sense I felt relief, it brought clarity as to what was going to happen in light of the rising numbers, with schools and for how long it’s expected to last. But as a teacher, we suddenly went from planning two-weeks of online learning to at least six. Then, as a parent, and this is coming from a teacher too, I can safely say that trying to homeschool both a 7 and 6-year-old while keeping a 3-year-old entertained and working is a challenge.

For the region, I feel for this lockdown it’s key that we act as if we each have Covid, to prevent its spread. It’s the small things that can help to make a big difference. Keep wearing our mask, washing our hands but also asking ourselves, do I need to go out? Could I do just one big food shop each week? Could one person do the shopping? It’s about how we can be selfless to protect one another.

I always try my best to remain calm, logical and positive to support all of those who depend on me. However, this new strain of the virus is something else. With 1 in 3 people with Covid now known not to show symptoms its invisible threat feels a lot closer to home. While there’s a lot we can’t control in this situation we all can follow the rules to protect our communities and loved ones.

One key change I’m making this lockdown is keeping a routine. This isn’t just at home but something as a school we’re encouraging our pupils to do to help with their learning and mental health. I feel the positive benefits of having a routine are greatly undervalued. It’s all too easy to sleep in, stay up a little later or not eat properly which over time can greatly impact how we feel about ourselves.

As a school, we’ve taken onboard what we’ve learnt from 2020 and pupils feedback to create an improved approach for the third lockdown, including live online learning classes which we’re currently introducing.

I’d like to add a thank you to everyone for staying home. I’d also like to reassure students that your teachers are still here for you. Your learning, wellbeing and mental health are still our top priority. We’re devastated learning can’t be in the classroom right now but we’re doing everything we can to make things feel as normal as possible. You can and will get through this.”

24.12.2020

“For me the best present to get this year is news of the vaccine. I found watching the first person in the North East getting vaccinated really emotional. I felt a sense of relief and elation. I know there’s still a way to go but finally, I feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Sam Connor, 33, works at King Edward VI School, Morpeth as an associate assistant headteacher. Originally from Northern Ireland, Sam moved to the North East ten years ago, teaching first in Durham before moving to Morpeth. He is married to Natalie and has three young children, Lucah, 7, Raphael, 6 and Rocco, 3.

Here he shares how Covid-19 has impacted the end of term at school and his family's plans for Christmas.

“The end of term has been busy. In-line with the latest advice from the Department of Education, students finished for Christmas a day early and most teachers worked from home on the last day.

We hope one less day of contact means fewer students might need to self-isolate over the festive season. Coughs and sniffles are always about at this time of year. So, my colleagues and I are taking track and trace on an hour-by-hour basis and have coined the motto “if in doubt, find out” to advise staff, pupils and parents. It is only through testing and self-isolating we can protect one another.

While some students are initially worried about sharing who they’ve been in contact with, in case they need to self-isolate, I always say to them that it's better to be honest. That way they can protect not only their friends but their friend's families too - this is bigger than us as individuals. Our actions affect everyone.

Despite the situation, we still got to celebrate the end of term with our pupils. In secret, lots of our staff filmed a clip for the school panto. On the last day of term, the senior team (in full Christmas gear) delivered pupils Christmas dinners to enjoy while watching the virtual panto in their tutor groups. Everyone loved it! I can’t thank my colleagues and students enough for their support this term. I just hope everyone has a lovely break.

Usually, Christmas Day is spent with my wife’s family and on New Year we visit my mum and dad in Northern Ireland. As a family this year we’ve decided to err on the side of caution and stay in Northumberland. My three young children are gutted. They keep asking “why can’t we go?” but we explain it is to protect granny and grandad and it’s what they want too.

For New Year we’re planning on doing a mini countdown with the kids at 9pm. Then when they’re tucked in bed, we’ll catch-up with family, friends and colleagues on Zoom to toast 2021 together, albeit virtually - but it does mean no taxis, babysitters or queues at the bar.

This festive season, I’d like to say thank you to all of those selfless volunteers and charitable organisations across the North East who help those less fortunate to celebrate Christmas. Supporting others both at school and home is a key part of the festive season for me. Pupils at my school donated six cars worth of food to a local food bank and as a family, with the children's help, we’ve put together some food hampers. I’d also like to thank all of the parents who we’ve been leaning on more these past few months. Thanks to their help pupils have been able to safely attend school, see their friends and have some kind of normality.

For me the best present to get this year is news of the vaccine. I found watching the first person in the North East getting vaccinated emotional. I felt a sense of relief and elation. I know there’s still a way to go but finally, I feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Since the vaccine roll-out began, I’ve felt like there’s been a real shift in mood, that all of our spirits have been lifted. While it’s positive news, I don’t want people to become complacent. We’ve taken one huge step forward. Let’s not now take two steps back. We’ve still got to keep working hard for family, friends, neighbours, colleagues and the North East as a whole - for a better 2021."

18.12.20

“For me the best present to get this year is news of the vaccine. I found watching the first person in the North East getting vaccinated really emotional. I felt a sense of relief and elation. I know there’s still a way to go but finally, I feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Sam Connor, 33, works at King Edward VI School, Morpeth as an associate assistant headteacher. Originally from Northern Ireland, Sam moved to the North East ten years ago, teaching first in Durham before moving to Morpeth. He is married to Natalie and has three young children, Lucah, 7, Raphael, 6 and Rocco, 3.

Here he shares how Covid-19 has impacted the end of term at school and his family's plans for Christmas.

“The end of term has been busy. In-line with the latest advice from the Department of Education, students finished for Christmas a day early and most teachers worked from home on the last day.

We hope one less day of contact means fewer students might need to self-isolate over the festive season. Coughs and sniffles are always about at this time of year. So, my colleagues and I are taking track and trace on an hour-by-hour basis and have coined the motto “if in doubt, find out” to advise staff, pupils and parents. It is only through testing and self-isolating we can protect one another.

While some students are initially worried about sharing who they’ve been in contact with, in case they need to self-isolate, I always say to them that it's better to be honest. That way they can protect not only their friends but their friend's families too - this is bigger than us as individuals. Our actions affect everyone.

Despite the situation, we still got to celebrate the end of term with our pupils. In secret, lots of our staff filmed a clip for the school panto. On the last day of term, the senior team (in full Christmas gear) delivered pupils Christmas dinners to enjoy while watching the virtual panto in their tutor groups. Everyone loved it! I can’t thank my colleagues and students enough for their support this term. I just hope everyone has a lovely break.

Usually, Christmas Day is spent with my wife’s family and on New Year we visit my mum and dad in Northern Ireland. As a family this year we’ve decided to err on the side of caution and stay in Northumberland. My three young children are gutted. They keep asking “why can’t we go?” but we explain it is to protect granny and grandad and it’s what they want too.

For New Year we’re planning on doing a mini countdown with the kids at 9pm. Then when they’re tucked in bed, we’ll catch-up with family, friends and colleagues on Zoom to toast 2021 together, albeit virtually - but it does mean no taxis, babysitters or queues at the bar.

This festive season, I’d like to say thank you to all of those selfless volunteers and charitable organisations across the North East who help those less fortunate to celebrate Christmas. Supporting others both at school and home is a key part of the festive season for me. Pupils at my school donated six cars worth of food to a local food bank and as a family, with the children's help, we’ve put together some food hampers. I’d also like to thank all of the parents who we’ve been leaning on more these past few months. Thanks to their help pupils have been able to safely attend school, see their friends and have some kind of normality.

For me the best present to get this year is news of the vaccine. I found watching the first person in the North East getting vaccinated emotional. I felt a sense of relief and elation. I know there’s still a way to go but finally, I feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Since the vaccine roll-out began, I’ve felt like there’s been a real shift in mood, that all of our spirits have been lifted. While it’s positive news, I don’t want people to become complacent. We’ve taken one huge step forward. Let’s not now take two steps back. We’ve still got to keep working hard for family, friends, neighbours, colleagues and the North East as a whole - for a better 2021."

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