Reflections on the autumn term 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
2020 has been a truly exceptional year. An incredible - and at times indescribable - period of change, uncertainly, restriction, worry, anxiety, sadness and exhaustion in trying to ensure that our school has stayed open for our children during a worldwide pandemic. In my first year of Headship at Oldway, I never expected that halfway through the school year we would be planning a curriculum, timetables, support and procedures that took into account home learning, provision during school holidays, social distancing, changes to hygiene and cleaning measures, combatting food poverty and supporting those hardest hit by lockdown.
Many of the difficulties for those of us working in schools during the pandemic has been the unprecedented role of schools in supporting our children and their families - and how much schools have been a source of information and wider support for families. We have found ways to open during school holidays, ways to deliver food vouchers for families in need, ways to support parents and carers with home learning, ways to support our children's return to school and the new routines, ways to redesign our classrooms and curriculum to address gaps in pupils' learning and to minimise the risk of spreading the virus, ways to ensure getting to and from school is safe and reduces crowding on site, ways to continue to engage with parents and carers with their children's learning, ways to ensure playtimes and lunchtimes are safe and fun, and - most importantly - ways to make school feel as normal as possible for our children. This has taken great creativity, great determination, great teamwork, great flexibility and a huge amount of energy, constantly responding to updated advice from government (and often with very little notice).
Some of our children have been detrimentally affected by lockdown, some have experienced great difficulty and hardship, and many have felt a true sense of loss this year. We have missed seeing loved ones, and missed the close, personal contact that makes you feel connected to others. Others, have found a positve increase in family time, have enjoyed more of the simple things in life and redressed some of the imbalances in their lives. All of us have realised the importance of schools: for education, for spending time with friends and for feeling part of a community.
As we finish this autumn term, my heart goes out to secondary colleagues who received only yesterday - the day before schools finish for the Christmas holidays - an announcement from government about remote learning, keyworker and vulnerable pupils' provision and mass testing in secondary schools that needs to be implemented on schools' return in January - in a 'spare' room and with 'spare' staff who have 'spare' time to attend training. An insurmountable challenge in the timescale given, bearing in mind a Christmas break is crucial for school staff and school leaders that have worked non-stop all year, under constantly stressful circumstances.
Throughout these incredible months, I have been touched by the creativity of the team at Oldway, their care, their determination and their resilience. They have lifted me, looked after me and given me strength. They have shared ideas, been confident to raise any concerns, have found solutions and shown patience and compassion to others: children, colleagues and parents and carers. I have also received many words of thanks, encouragement and appreciation from parents and carers and incredible support from Oldway's governors and other school leaders in our Trust and across Torbay. There are some aspects of the recent changes that we will keep post-COVID, as we have found they have been beneficial - but we're longing for the times where school feels much more like the old normal.
The new year and news of a vaccination brings hope for the year ahead. In the meantime, we'll keep on keeping on - because our children need us to. But first we'll be enjoying a well-earned and much-deserved rest.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas - and a happy, healthy and safe new year.