The Prime Minister has described the return of all pupils to school in September as a “national priority”.

Like thousands of other school leaders and teachers across the country, I agree.

I have always believed in our responsibility to care for children, to maintain their education, to ensure their health and wellbeing, and to make sure they are well-fed.

That duty has never been stronger than now. So many children have already missed so much school – they will never get it back but it will be even more damaging if it is extended any longer.

And the negative impact is the greatest on those children from less well-off backgrounds who may not have internet or computers at home.

As the country approached lockdown in March, our Trust’s six primary schools, serving disadvantaged communities in Essex, stayed open as fully as possible to deliver on these responsibilities, and also so as many of our parents as possible could continue their jobs in the NHS, social care, supermarkets and pharmacies.

It was vital so they could bring in a wage for their families.

When schools closed to all but vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers, we continued to provide for them, and remained open through the Easter holidays and on Bank Holidays.

In June, when schools partially re-opened, we did so for all year groups.

We carried out a huge amount of preparatory work in advance, making sure our schools would be as safe as possible, in line with Government guidance and our own understanding and knowledge of what our families needed.

We also spent a great deal of time reassuring parents and pupils that the schools they would return to would be safe.

That same community leadership needs to be shown again so that all schools open for all pupils next month – and I am confident the schools sector will rise to the challenge.