A sunny day, goodbyes to friends and wishes for a happy holiday. In many ways today is just like the end of any summer term but of course the school year 2019/20 has been anything but ordinary. When we said goodbye to the last of our families just before lockdown on Friday 20th March I stood with other senior leaders outside Cypress Primary and as they left many people asked me how long I thought the children would be away for. I said I thought it might be six weeks but, as we all now know, the situation has played out rather differently.
We wouldn’t necessarily have known back in March what the term ‘social distancing’ meant yet alone how important it would become in all our lives and since then we’ve learnt a whole new vocabulary with ‘PPE’, ‘Bubbles’ and ‘Herd immunity’ now widely understood. However, the most used word of 2020 has to be ‘unprecedented’ and we have indeed found ourselves in unprecedented times. For all the time I have been in primary schools there has never been much variation on the basic organisational class unit of up to 30 children with one teacher and the other staff, like Teaching Assistants, who support them. There is a strong argument that the reason this arrangement has prevailed since the start of formal education in this country is quite simple – it just works – and the relationships that build up are so strong that many of us still remember our own own teachers and best friends from primary school. If nothing else what the lockdown has affirmed for me is that these class arrangements will not be bettered any time in the near future. We have shown that online teaching is possible but that doesn’t mean it’s preferable; the children have missed their teachers and their friends and, take it from me, everyone who works in our schools has missed the children. We look forward to reconnecting with them all in the Autumn term.
We have had to make a ‘best guess’ at what things will look like in September and today we hear that the Government is saying they want the country to be ‘back to normal by Christmas’. I am sure all of us fervently hope that will be the case. However, in terms of school leadership the saying ‘Hope for the best, prepare for the worst’ has proved its worth and although we are very much looking forward to welcoming all our children back in September we will still have many precautions in place for the forseeable future to try to prevent the spread of the virus in our schools. We are aware that we haven’t managed to ‘please all the people, all the time’ in the lockdown but I am proud to say that in all the hundreds and hundreds of keyworker sessions we have delivered since March 24th and the ‘in school’ sessions for children in Years 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 since June 8th we have not had one COVID case in our Trust of either a child or a member of staff. We said our approach would have the ‘health and safety of our children, staff and families … at the forefront of our thinking’ and we are grateful that we have had such an excellent record of safety so far. We will do all we can to ensure that this continues in September.
Although everyone’s circumstances are different we hope that all of our families and staff will be able to find some peace in the summer break and time to recuperate. I would like to express here, in written form, my thanks to my colleagues in the Trust who have responded to the lockdown with flexibility, creativity and entirely new ways of working. I would also like to thank our families and children, many of whom have been working so hard over the last few months – we know this has not been easy for you either. I have enjoyed seeing your work on blogs and planning pages and you have shown that you are real ‘Pegasus People’. The character that you have displayed will serve you well in the future. All families should keep an eye on our website for further guidance before the start of term in September and I look forward to seeing you then.