We asked Wear business leaders what they thought the implications for businesses were of the reopening of schools this month.
Here’s what they told us…
Alison Hylton, owner Uniform Supplies in Shotton
The reopening of schools is fantastic for the Wear region’s business community because it can often be overlooked what a big economic driver the education system is.
There are 500 schools in County Durham alone and that means an awful lot of caterers and suppliers will now be swinging back into business as well as many other subsidiary businesses connected to servicing schools.
My business supplies school uniforms to just a small number of those schools in County Durham but it has been absolutely hectic in terms of new orders and in particular requests for us to supply more units because many schools are now asking pupils to come in different uniforms every day.
Schools reopening is a key step towards restoring economic health to the region again after the incredible disruption caused so far this year by the pandemic.
Al Yong, CEO of Rymote Ultrafast Broadband Specialists, Durham
Although the schools have been closed for many, many months, no-one should think they have not been a hive of activity.
My company specialises in installing and upgrading IT systems and we’ve been non-stop throughout schools in the summer as the local authorities gear up for a completely different teaching experience.
It’s hard to under-estimate how much effort has been put in.
Systems that have been tried and tested for decades have had to be completely reimagined to take account of the pandemic – that’s from one-way systems to hand-sanitisers, new rules and regulations and, in Rymote’s case, examining IT systems so that they are fit for purpose and can deal with remote teaching if required.
What I have seen is that teachers and especially head-teachers are under enormous pressure and doing everything they can to rise to the unique challenges they face and I think it’s important that we, as parents, bear that in mind when we’re dealing with schools and teachers in the months ahead.
Laura Forbes, corporate fundraiser, Grace House, Sunderland
The reopening of schools is great news for the mental health of not only the children but also the parents living in the Wear region who, after all, make up such an important part of the workforce.
We specialise in providing respite care for children and young people with disabilities and many of them do attend mainstream schools, so for the parents of those children, the reopening is going to be such a big help.
I also think that for those parents who have been unable to work because of childcare issues, being able to get back into the workforce now is also going to be good for them, not just financially but also mentally.
We perhaps don’t realise sometimes how much schools free up parents to carry out jobs that otherwise wouldn’t be practical and now they are reopened, part-time work in particular becomes viable again and I think that will help boost the local economy.
Mike McGaun, business development executive, Travis Perkins
I think the importance of the return to school this month is that it sends business and the world a signal that we are getting back an element of normality, pre-Covid-19.
That will help boost confidence and confidence is what businesses thrive on.
Of course, things are going to be very different from how they were pre-Covid-19 but the return shows an adaptability and resilience in society and that adaptability has been mirrored by the business world in the Wear region which has found ways of keeping calm and carrying on.
Economically it’s good news for the teachers coming off furlough who will have more money in their pockets and good news for the Government because of the end of furlough payments.
It’s also great news for SME’s because it means more journeys to petrol stations, more visits to paper shops, more stocking up in general and that’s going to boost the local economy.