Like me, you and your families may have begun this second national lockdown and closure of schools, with a heavy heart. We all place a high value on the life of our schools, and children and staff alike are missing the friendship and good humour of real classrooms and school events.
However, our schools – and our children – are proving more robust than we thought and we know now that we can continue to provide not just education, but also co-curricular activities and pastoral care. In addition, there are many lessons being learnt about just how flexible and resilient we can all be, and these will remain with our children, long after the memory of Google Meet lessons has faded. I think there are three key ways schools can continue to thrive.
Firstly, educational provision has taken a step forward. For my school, and for many others, the opportunity to upskill in IT and online methods has ensured academic excellence and discovery have continued. Online breakout rooms which enable peer learning about Macbeth, a shared teacher’s page as she demonstrates a Maths problem, and the checking of pronunciation in a French lesson, mean that learning is still dynamic and engaging. And in lessons I have taught and observed, I have seen the same smiles, as ever.
Secondly, there is an inventiveness to co-curricular activities which has been wonderful to see. We’ve enjoyed not just a radio play, written and created in different homes and cleverly spliced for comic success, but also films made by pupils as part of their History projects, delightful dance ensembles, netball goal-shooting competitions and Google Meet land training for the swimming squad (to be completed in the garden!), to name a few. These so-called ‘digital native’ young people are innovative and ambitious, and schools have flourished in working with them – and fun and creativity have survived.
Lastly, schools are still promoting kindness and pastoral care. My school’s values-based education also encourages girls to reflect on their personal worth, to find time for quiet and to place others before themselves. This means that, while we are mindful of the very real pressures of lockdown – the stress of exam changes, the pressure on parents and the way pupils are missing their friends – we also believe support and encouragement still work for young people. And that lockdown should be more than a fallow period in a child’s life. We can still foster wellbeing and optimism so that it is about more than just surviving a difficult time; there are still things to celebrate – namely the talents, energy and creativity of our wonderful pupils, and their bright futures.
St Catherine’s School