This week has seen the launch of yet another kind of School here at SVPS! Our first re-invention took place at the start of the Easter Holidays when we re-opened, immediately after school closures were announced, to the children of critical workers, so that they could be cared for both during the term time and also throughout the holidays. Soon after that, we began the process of designing and then launching our ambitious Virtual Journey so, at the start of term, I found myself the Head of a Virtual School, too. Finally, the partial re-opening of Schools that was announced just over three weeks ago means we now have just over 50 per cent of the children in certain year groups back on our site.
After three weeks of planning, keeping up with 42 updates to the Government guidance and risk assessing, it has been super to see the plans in action and, once again, I am so impressed with the resilience shown by our pupils as they adjust to the new systems now in place. I am also extremely grateful to the team of staff, including the Bursar’s department, the maintenance team of Mr Betts and Miss Buckle, the School Nurse, Mrs Leckie and the Senior Management Team for all their hard work that enabled us to train the staff, prepare a robust risk assessment and then put the measures in place so that we could re-open this week. As ever, our team of teachers and teaching assistants have risen to the new challenges with all their learning powers on full display as they implement the plans and help the children to adjust to this new normal.
At every stage of this journey, we have been conscious that this period of time has not been without its challenges and both staying at home and returning to school can bring out some mixed emotions for our children. Parenting and educational writer, Michael Grose, has some good advice for parents whose children are struggling with anxiety at this time.
The first thing that Grose talks about is the importance of adjusting expectations because School is a different experience for the children who are returning at this time. He talks about this experience as being a ‘blip on the educational curve’ but in actual fact, we know that our Virtual Journeys here at SVPS have enabled the children to amaze us with their academic effort, progress and achievement. Where there has been some slippage, it is also worth remembering that children all over the world have missed out on being in School for a significant length of time and that education is a long game.
Secondly, Michael Grose asks parents to recognise that that children want the adults in their lives to understand that they are feeling anxious and apprehensive. They want their parents to see that their anxiety is real. So validating your child’s feelings will help; children feel reassured when they know their parents understand that they are feeling nervous or anxious.
The third piece of advice is about preparing children so they know what lies ahead. I am very grateful to the parents of the children now in School for going through my letter with their children, at the appropriate level, so they arrived knowing what to expect. We have also been discussing the safety procedures regularly with each bubble so they are really clear about our expectations and so they can navigate some of the unexpected things that might happen; such as how to manage a fire drill, as practised on Thursday afternoon.
Next, Grose recommends focusing on reconnection so that your child knows this is the main aim when they return to School. Whether that is this term or in September, we all need to give our children the time to reconnect with one another, with their teachers and with their learning. In the long term, this will help them to settle more comfortably into life post-Covid-19. It is also important to remember that any kind of change is tiring and can result in the children becoming a bit grumpy and out of sorts. Plenty of time, after School, to wind down and relax is really important whilst they adjust to life back in the classroom.
Finally, and so importantly, the advice is for us, as parents and teachers, to acknowledge the fact we have undertaken a huge amount of adjustment to all aspects of our lives. It is also important that we take the time to relax, when we can, and focus on our own well-being, too. If we are replenishing our emotional resources then we are better placed to support our children.
As well as planning for the next phase in the pandemic, I am sure many of us have been following the recent, shocking, events in the United States and the subsequent protests on both sides of the Atlantic; the tragic death of George Floyd will have impacted on all of us. As a School, where each cares for all, supporting one another whatever our race or religion, our background or culture is a part of who we are and what we do. So I finish today’s Head’s Lines with a reminder that we are proud to be a supportive, inclusive community that values each and every member of the SVPS family.
I wish the whole community a lovely, if somewhat cooler, weekend!
Head of Prep