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Principal’s Blog: Lessons from Lockdown

This week should have seen the start of Wimbledon and yet we’re watching the closing stages of the FA Cup and Premier League.

In Senior School, we should have been watching the annual school production – Grease this year – and yet we are debating the future of the arts, as theatres across the country remain closed.

We should have been preparing to celebrate Junior Prizegiving too and yet we will be marking this event virtually, for Year 6 rites of passage only (in socially distanced pods) and with no parents in the audience.

So, whilst I enjoyed the nostalgic re-runs from Glastonbury at the weekend and I may dip into some classic tennis matches being aired this week, it really isn’t quite the way I thought this summer would be!

Schools have been under the same controlling forces of government directives as everyone else because of the pandemic. These unprecedented times will make 2020 a year to remember for us all and not for positive reasons. Year 11, Upper Sixth Formers and teachers across the country stood shocked and stunned as exams were cancelled.  Closure of college and school sites with a nationwide lockdown have made working from home and remote online learning the way forward.  We’ve all been screen focused and immersed in conference calls, Teams and Zoom – I wonder if this will continue or be a newly structured way of working.

But whilst we may have missed our freedom, retail therapy, eating out, socialising and seeing our family and friends, there have certainly been life aspects that have improved and emerged through our enforced isolation.  Some of these are personal but a number are those I have seen and shared with others in our school and wider community:

  • The glorious weather has encouraged all of us to exercise more regularly outdoors – I have never seen so many people walking and cycling – families especially.
  • New footpaths, woodland and tracks have been discovered – some only a stone’s throw from our own homes!
  • Gardens are looking and smelling fantastic – they are filled with the sights and sounds of nature, wildlife has boomed, relishing the drop in pollution and people.
  • Families have joyfully experimented with baking and cooking – trying different recipes and I’ve seen some amazing examples from pupils of all ages. More families eating together each day, sharing quality time.
  • Games and quizzes both in homes, and virtually, have flourished – remembering the value of connecting with others and introducing some healthy competition to boot!
  • The biggest increase in IT usage has been in the over 60’s age group where grandparents and relatives have embraced screens in order to stay in touch with loved ones.
  • Creativity has had time to develop and grow. The artwork and photography seen from our pupils has been truly astonishing as they have the time and freedom to explore, experiment and think.

As we have explored and enjoyed new experiences, we have also connected emotionally in new ways.

We’ve learned to value our NHS and the caring nature of many other roles.  We have donated generously to those who needed help.  We’ve learned the importance of social responsibility by following guidance to protect those we love, and also those we don’t even know.

For our School
We’ve learned not to take our freedom and the importance of an education for granted.

Children have appreciated their school and teachers, yet developed their independence too.

We’ve retained normality and humour in online live lessons with dogs barking, cats sitting on keyboards, window cleaners in the background and house deliveries arriving.

Teachers have welcomed pupils into their virtual homes and built children’s confidence through catch up calls and messages.

We’ve shared pets at form time; themed dress-up days; group singing; challenges and sporting quests.

Teachers have remembered the reason they love their job is being in school, inspiring the next generation.

Our community bonds have strengthened.  Our school family will be reunited.

There is a joy of coming through adversity and we need to capture this essence. We know the new normal is unclear for returning to school but it is crucial we do not lose what we have learned and discovered.  Many people have been devastated by the crisis – bereaved, seriously ill or lost their livelihood – it is incumbent upon us therefore to shape a bright future and embrace the progress we have made through difficult times. Schools are the best places to do this, and we will….

‘Here come the young. With open minds and hearts
Inclusive from the start. Here come the young.
Here come the young. They might just save the day
Best get out the way. Here come the young.’

(Written by Martyn Joseph)

Now there’s a lyric worth thinking about.

Lynne M Horner, Principal

1st July 2020

 

 

Time

for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to…

Happiness

Whenever I read or hear someone saying how important it is that the pupils in their school, or the staff, should be ‘happy’ with the associated lessons and training, it always gives me pause for thought. We all need a measure of happiness in our lives, that’s for sure. I believe in the importance of…

Timeless – the dawn of a new decade

After all the freedom and joy associated with a school holiday, we are already back into the throes of the school day, lessons, activities and even exams for some. If you celebrated Christmas, I wonder how many gave or received a book as a gift? I received 5 this year, which is far more than…

Decisions, decisions

It’s that time of year when up and down the country parents are visiting school Open Days making decisions about the next steps for their child.  In my experience, having worked in many different schools, one size doesn’t fit all when making that such an important choice of the best school for a child. Like…

A New Chapter

Last weekend we managed to take all of our new Year 7 pupils off to a residential 2 day camp for outdoor and team building activities after only a couple of weeks in school. This has been an ambition of mine for a few years and I am delighted it finally happened – and what…

Peace Within

As the end of term draws near, there are so many events and projects at Westholme that feel uplifting, often involving collaboration between students, colleagues and parents. These bonds and experiences are such an important part of our community and culture here. Chicago, Sports Day, Prizegiving, Leavers’ assemblies, and Student and Staff entertainment all provide…

Taking Care of Young Minds

  There is much focus on mental health in the media currently and especially in relation to adolescent health. In school it is absolutely essential that we are not only alert to the warning signs of difficulty, but also proactive in promoting positive mental health in the same way we advocate physical activity to keep…

This year I will…..

As 2019 has arrived with talk of ‘Veganuary’ and many other lifestyle changes for better health, at school this is of course our second New Year.  Our first in September always gives our pupils the chance to start afresh and embark upon the new academic year with gusto.  I wonder if New Year resolutions of…

The Gift of Freedom

This weekend past has seen three days of Remembrance as we reached the centenary of the end of the Great War.  When the Prime Minister David Lloyd George addressed Parliament after the Armistice in November 1918 he said, ‘I hope we may say that this morning marks the end of the war to end all…

Back to School

‘Mum I don’t want to go to school today’. Come on now, it’s not that bad ‘It is, the work’s too hard, I never know what I’m doing, no one likes me. I don’t have any friends.’ That isn’t true ‘Yes it is. People keep calling me names and saying things behind my back, the…

A Community of Hope for the Future

As we move towards a Royal wedding there will undoubtedly be a proliferation of red, white and blue and union flags fluttering amidst that quintessential Britishness surrounding such an occasion. Hopefully this may be underpinned by a warm sense of bonhomie celebrating the Royal nuptials. Amidst the usual Brexiteering we have been shocked by the…

New Year – New you?

As the New Year is well and truly underway we have reached that awkward point when we can no longer say ‘Happy New Year’ as a greeting, even if we are meeting someone for the first time since 2017 passed. In schools, colleges and universities it is always refreshing to have two opportunities a year…

‘Joy to the World’

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” (Maya Angelou)  As we embark upon the Christmas countdown I enjoyed giving an advent calendar to every class across all three sites on Friday 1st December.  I…

Westholme Magic – Putting the sparkle into education!

Across the country this is the time of year for Open Days and Information events for parents and children of all ages. At Westholme we too have been busy with Open Day on all our sites and a forthcoming Sixth Form Information Evening; on such occasions I never cease to be amazed by our staff…

Success and Change

It is that time of year when students and teachers nervously await public examination results and see the outcome of hard work all round. On Thursday it is the turn of Year 11’s as they receive their GCSE results, but last week it was AS and the all-important A Levels. For Sixth Formers it is…

The Final Curtain?

As the cast took their plaudits for the final performance of West Side Story it marked the final few days of this term and the academic year. It has undoubtedly been a whirlwind year and we certainly finished on a high note. It seems a perfect analogy for our school reflection. Three Sports’ Days in…

Back to the Future

The iconic film ‘Back to the Future’ marked a worldwide cultural phenomenon and was the highest-grossing film of 1985; it launched one of the most successful series in Universal’s cinematic history. In the modern franchise age of the Marvel Superheroes, Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean, Michael J Fox and the DeLorean car may…

Spring Forwards…Fall Back?

We have reached that time of year when the clocks have moved forward an hour and the days are longer. Summer is just around the corner and everyone enjoys the apparent normality of travelling to and from school in daylight hours. Springtime is always regarded as a time of renewal and hope from the farmers’…