As week four of remote learning draws to a close, it is worth reflecting on things about which we can be pleased. The fortitude of your children is certainly one, as they manage impressively a process very new to them and restrictions very alien. The dedication of their teachers is another, as they work harder than ever to ensure that learning continues apace and that support is given to their pupils which goes well beyond academic lessons. A third is the sense of community which has seen parents, teachers and pupils pulling together and trying to support each other. We haven’t got everything right in our provision – no school has – but I think we can be satisfied, even proud, of what has been achieved.
The children who have been in school have been wonderfully cheerful. In many ways they have been like a big family with the oldest helping the very youngest and a real culture of support the most noticeable feature. It is rather a large family, but seeing them play, witnessing that wide eyed wonder which learning brings and watching the interaction between children of all ages has been a joy.
I hope that you are all able to enjoy a break over the lengthened weekend. Of course the celebrations to mark Victory in Europe cannot be as intended, or replicate the coming together of the nation in one giant party in May, 1945. However, I do believe that Friday will offer us the opportunity to reflect on why it is important to mark the 75th Anniversary of the beginning of a peace in Europe which has lasted. Sunday will bring important news about the gradual lifting of lockdown. I hope that it is news which is good for you all and for your children.
Some of our community are currently observing the holy month of Ramadan; sacred privations upon the privations of lockdown, and my sincere respect is given to those of our older children who have observed its rules for the first time this year. The attendant celebrations with extended family will have to wait, the delivery of presents may be a little slow via Amazon, but the approach of Eid gives a reason to find happiness in these strange times.
Our Year 8 Scholarship class have just written an RS & Philosophy essay entitled "If the Coronavirus is a test from God, then we have passed. Discuss." Many pointed out that it is not just observing social distancing that will make this event notable in future history books, but a re-energised concern for those most vulnerable in our society, and for those who work so hard to look after us. We are all also appreciating the simple pleasures in life: good food, family life and learning, whilst missing the social interaction which we so take for granted.
I hope that next Friday, the celebration of VE Day, will bring the nation together, just as it did seventy five years ago after a period of privation far worse than the one we are living through. Vera Lynnís songs will echo through our homes carrying a little more resonance and, though celebrations might be more muted than was the intention before lockdown, her wonderfully evocative words should bring hope just as they did during far darker times.
I have been extremely impressed by the behaviour, the concentration and the cheerfulness of those children who are learning remotely in school and I form the impression that this is the case with those learning at home. I do hope that the structure which this learning is providing is helping our pupils as they show such fortitude in circumstances which require strength of character. Teachers are also hugely grateful for the support you are giving in helping your children make the most of a whole different way of learning. My most important priority, shared by your children's teachers, is to ensure that that our pupils continue to make very good progress and to thoroughly enjoy learning and also that they have time away from their screens to exercise, to play and to show their creative flair and imagination. The pages of this Newsletter give evidence of some of the excellent work being done, academic, creative and physical.
The many very kind and generous communications I have received suggest that, in the main, the start to remote learning has been a very positive one, though there has inevitably been the odd technical glitch, to which we have tried to respond quickly. In these very unsettling times, please do keep safe and look after yourselves. I wish you all a very good weekend and those who are working at the weekend every strength and comfort.
It is almost a month ago that we all stood outside our front doors to applaud all those working for our National Health Service for the first time, and exactly a month since lockdown began. It is a joy to see the children who are on site playing in a sunny playground, just as it is uplifting to metaphorically thumb through the pages of this Newsletter. It is testament to the creativity, the imagination, and the optimism of your children. I hope that you and they continue to find plenty to be grateful for in the small things which we perhaps notice and enjoy more as a result of the very unusual position we all find ourselves in. The detailed pictures of flowers in the Art section suggest that children are taking time to observe nature closely.
There is plenty of evidence within of doing – of painting, of working, of baking and of playing – but I hope that your children are also enjoying just being, for ‘What is this life if full of care, there is not time to stand and stare?’.
Communications from parents and conversations with teachers suggest that your children are responding wonderfully well to remote learning, but we are also looking to hone and improve what we are doing weekly. I suspect that every one of us will look back on this time as a defining one in our lives. Your children might wish to record their own experiences of lockdown in writing, through art and photography or in other forms.
I do hope that you all have the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine and time with your family over the weekend.
Yesterday, I received this message from Reverend Rosie, the new Chaplain to Brighton College. It touched me and so I thought I would share it with you:
“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. And the people began to think differently.’’ (Kitty O’Meara)
I was also drawn to the story of Noah's stoicism in the face of the flood, which contains a couple of passages that seem to me very relevant at the moment. It may seem at present that "the dove can find no rest for the sole of her foot", and is unlikely to for some time. Noah is later reassured by God that "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease". This is perhaps a Biblical paraphrase of "Keep calm and carry on", which is exactly what St Christopher's intends to do. Lessons will still be taught, a wide variety of learning will take place, and pupils and teachers will continue to work together to maintain the high standards we prize.
It is my sincere belief that our school community will find itself even stronger for weathering this particular storm.