The end of the beginning

You will probably be aware that I have been sending a daily quote to all members of our community since school closure; the quotes have often been suggested by staff or pupils, and they have sometimes captured the mood of the moment. I was grateful to Mr James for providing the first quote of this week:

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

It was said by Winston Churchill in November 1942, and we know that the current crisis has sometimes been likened to a battle or a war. I would ideally have sent the quote out on Sunday, on the eve of a partial re-opening (‘wider opening’) of our schools. Whilst we are far from being out of the woods, there is a real sense of renewed optimism in school, for we are surely moving in the right direction. The Senior School has so far only been able to welcome the Prep (Year 6) back, but there have been about 200 pupils in the Junior School, and the building at last echoes again to the sound of happy chatter and laughter rather than emptiness. All of this is occurring within the clear parameters of small ‘bubbles’, social distancing, frequent handwashing and sanitisation. We were very pleased to be able to open again to all who wanted to attend on the terms outlined by the Government, which compares with 35% of primary schools nationally according to a survey of 11,000 of them.

Pupils have also received a quote from American Admiral, William H. McRaven: “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” So, if your child is still lacking this care and attention to the smaller things in life, feel free to remind them that they’ll never be a world-changer! Interestingly, ‘Helping at home more’ was only the fifth most popular response to the pupil survey before half-term, in response to the question: Which positive things do you think you will try to retain from this lockdown period once it ends? It was trumped by ‘Phoning or video-messaging relatives or friends’, ‘Maintaining a regular exercise regime’, ‘Spending more time with family’ and ‘Spending more time outdoors’ (very narrowly in pole position).

In their feedback, pupils expressed far more confidence in the use of technology (as is true of staff!), and video-conferencing or live lessons was the most frequent and most popular type of learning activity in which they were engaging, alongside other media. Most appear to be spending an appropriate length of time on their work, although there is bound to be significant variation; we have asked staff to remind pupils again of the time they are expected to spend on tasks, so please tell them to stop if it is clearly excessive. We were also pleased to see that virtually all felt connected with the school community through the various pastoral activities and live tutorial time with peers. Significantly more felt that their sense of well-being had actually improved over the last two months than those who felt it had deteriorated, with the largest number fortunately saying that it had remained stable. Again, if you have concerns about your child’s well-being, I hope you are not hesitating to contact their Head of Year or Form Tutor.

So, this was generally a very positive survey and we were grateful for the constructive comments on teaching and learning which we have summarised for staff as we support each other in further refining the process for our pupils. Of particular note were the many unbidden expressions of gratitude, which reflected very well on their authors and were a source of great encouragement. We are, of course, open to suggestions or comments from parents too, so please get in touch as appropriate.

Mrs Laybourne provided yesterday’s quote, from Maya Angelou:

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I hope that we can all make each other feel better and more hopeful as many continue to face difficult times, and I send my best wishes to you and your family,

John Watson

Headmaster and Principal