Sid Inglis, Headmaster of Elstree School shares his thoughts on the impact of COVID 19 on schools, parents and most importantly our children and what this means going forward as we head back to school.
The difficult situation that has faced families and schools over the past six months has been unprecedented and has tested everyone’s resolve, patience and resilience. Parents have had to balance their own professional lives with having children at home and supporting them with their remote learning. These have been particularly challenging times for us all and we have had to adapt to new ways of teaching, learning and living, with the greatest sadness being that children have not been able to enjoy a fully operating ‘physical’ school during the summer term.
In very quick time, all schools have had to remodel their timetables, curriculum and teaching allocations in order to provide a full and enriching academic and co-curricular programme for their pupils. With guidance changing almost daily, communication has had to be clear, decisive and frequent (without swamping parents with too much information).
It seems strange to say it, with schools empty of pupils, that if ever there was an example of school communities coming more closely together, it has been during this time.
Despite all the challenges, I do believe that we have all emerged from this situation better and stronger. This period has reminded us about the importance of schools. It has reinforced our sense of community and it has increased our appreciation of what makes schools special. In amongst the disappointments, I believe there are many positives to celebrate:
- Pupils have had to learn how to learn and to think independently.
- They have learnt the skills of listening, reacting under pressure, thinking on their feet, keeping to deadlines and adapting to changing circumstances.
- Teachers have planned engaging and interesting lessons and there is no doubt that we have all improved our IT proficiency. This will serve us well as we continue to develop our methods of teaching and learning.
- All schools have tried to provide enriching activities that can be enjoyed at home, from fitness challenges to cooking, from musical concerts to debating, from poetry writing to creative arts projects, staff poetry readings, interesting talks, sporting sessions, live Art lessons, fun podcasts, book clubs and House challenges.
What will the Autumn Term look like
We will all hopefully by now have a clearer idea of what the Autumn Term will look like. Let us spare a thought for those Year 9 children entering senior school for the first time or new families joining a Prep School, having probably gone through a stressful house move and a significant family upheaval. Although all schools will operate slightly differently, the following is a list of some of the adjustments that may be made in schools in September:
- Parents and visitors allowed in school buildings by appointment only
- Pupils grouped in bubbles by year group or house
- Assemblies, chapel services and large group gatherings compromised
- Staggered meal times and breaks
- No inter-school matches until at least half term.
- Remote learning continuing for those not able to return to school
- Additional hand-washing stations positioned around school grounds
Advice to parents new and current
- For new parents, do not be afraid to ask questions and seek advice from existing families. Schools are close communities and everyone will want to make sure that new pupils and families settle in well.
- Trust schools and school leaders to act in the best possible way to keep their communities safe and well. They will work all hours to provide a first class academic and co-curricular programme for all their pupils. They have already shown their adaptability and resourcefulness, and there will be a collective determination to make a full return to school as successful and as safe as possible in September.
- Read and absorb all communication from schools, even if you have received numerous ‘Updates from the Head’. These documents provide essential information.
- Use your child’s Housemaster/mistress/Form Teacher as a source of support and guidance for both you and your child(ren). They have your best interests at heart and will do everything they can to help.
The most important thing for parents and teachers to remember is that a child needs to be happy, settled and confident in order to achieve and thrive.
- Make home life one of support and love
- Encourage your children to engage with any activity/opportunity that is given to them. By being busy, they will soon make friends and be much more fulfilled.
- Work with teachers to find the best possible outcomes for your child.
- Take time to say thank you. Teachers have their own challenges to overcome and want the very best for you and your children.