Senior Headmaster’s Blog: Developing character

It was a real joy to see the pictures of families out enjoying themselves in the snow last week.  It provided a reminder to us all of how important fun is in our lives, and for many, this has been something that the lockdown has made much harder. 

As we look ahead to a return to school at some point next month, it is so important that we remember this.  There has been a great deal of media and political chat about having to catch up, and the danger of a lost generation, but this catastrophising of the childhood experience of lockdown is hugely unhelpful, and the surest way to ensure that stress and anxiety is increased.

I wrote on Twitter that there is a misconception that education is about filling a vessel with knowledge. It should be about developing capacity for future learning, so any 'catch up' needs to focus on a happy, low pressure return to education.  This is an appropriate recognition to the challenges that young people have faced over the last year, but also the best preparation for them to go on to develop into confident, articulate and successful adults in the coming years.  

As I have previously written, education is not just about learning in the classroom, or the range of co-curricular opportunities, but also the social and personal development (character), and it is going to be critical for a successful return that young people are given time and opportunity for all three areas.  For this reason, we will be spending time planning carefully for the summer term, to provide a balance of learning, assessment, activities and still leaving time for all of our children to find their way back into life at school.  Of course, the needs of each child will be slightly different, and for some support with learning where it has been difficult remotely will be absolutely appropriate.  For others, it will be crucial to have the chance to perform or compete again, and for others it might be that the most important focus is just to be with friends once more.  

Looking ahead to after half term, following last week's consultation, we have taken the decision to move Saturday lessons into the week for the remainder of lockdown.  The poll last week was strongly in favour of this move (208 votes, 75.4%), with only 45 votes (16.3%) against.  I know that this means that there are some who would prefer to continue with the Saturday timetable, but there will still be opportunities to continue with co-curricular activities, and sport on Saturdays, and we hope that we will be back on site in the near future, when of course, we will be running the full six day programme.  However, this is a decision taken with the welfare of the students in mind, and I am sure that it will prove beneficial to keep all of us going with remote learning.

Now, it is really important for all to get a good break over half term.  Read a book, go for a walk, help out at home, speak to friends and family that you might not be able to visit.  We are looking forward to Monday 22nd February, when we expect to get news from the Prime Minister about the next steps towards school opening, and we also anticipate the response to the consultations on assessment, so should find out what Year 11 and Upper 6th students will need to do.  It will take us a day or two after that announcement to work out our strategy, but we will keep you in touch with what we are doing.  A return to school, whether for all, or some year groups, will require us to run testing, and in order to achieve that safely, we might not get everyone back at once.  We will still be providing online resources for those who are working from home, because of travel restrictions, or self isolation, although again, we will give more information about this once the announcement is made.

Have a very good half term.

Chris Townsend



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