Now this was certainly not how I or any of the teachers expected to be returning after the holidays. Just a week before the start of term, we were fully expecting to be welcoming pupils from Reception to Year 6, with our Year 7 boys and Year 8 pupils returning later. When I look back to the beginning of the September term and remember just how excited pupils were to come back to school after the summer holidays, after such a long time away, it makes the current situation all the more difficult to accept.
Here is a link to a video to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9SemYK9HEw&lc=UggJZhfcWMd9lngCoAEC
It is set at a point in history, but the man is sitting in a time machine, about to journey to the future. I think we all know that 2020 wasn’t what we hoped it would be. There were probably many times when we wished for a time machine that could leap forwards into the future to a time when things would be a bit more normal. Perhaps we still feel a bit like that!
Starting a New Year feels a bit like being on the brink of the future, the next stage in time. This time last year, when we were looking ahead to 2020, we had no idea how things would pan out! Many things that happened in 2020 weren’t in any of our plans for that year. It’s OK for us to feel sad about some of these things, and disappointed too. However, we can also feel thankful and happy about some of the things that we experienced last year, perhaps some unexpected positives. An example might be that we engaged more with family members who lived further away by using Zoom, or we got to know our neighbours better. Eating meals together as a family more often, I for example remember vividly the changes of winter into spring – the changing seasons, the improvement in air quality, more time to be quiet and reflect.
We are a resilient community, we are fortunate to have a remarkable team of teachers who are totally committed to make the very most of the remote teaching and the alternative classrooms we find ourselves in. This time around now, and looking into the future feels very different for a couple of important reasons: firstly we as a nation received two wonderful presents over the Christmas period: News of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. We know that there is an end to all of this in sight. It is quite remarkable that the medical advances and the brilliance of so many scientists collaborating and working so hard together across countries and continents have managed to produce such effective vaccines in such a short time – in under a year – when not long ago, ten years would have been far more realistic. We have cause to be optimistic – this will end and we have some great times to look forward to.
The second reason is that nearly every teacher and teaching assistant and member of the administration team and our brilliant maintenance team are in school every day and working hard to deliver the best educational experience possible to children of key workers and to pupils who are working from home.
We have learnt much from our experience before last summer: a full academic timetable is being delivered, Our Games department have begun to deliver a remote programme which is already innovating through the delivery of yoga lessons and our Form Teachers understand how important their role is in monitoring how pupils are coping, how they are feeling and what individuals needs are, as they meet with tutor groups daily. I must say how grateful and impressed I have been seeing how the whole Durston Community has again risen to this challenge, one that I sincerely hope we do not witness again in my lifetime.
Christmas is often a time to give thanks, and although we are past the 6 January or ‘Reyes’, in Hispanic countries, I would like to give thanks to the brilliant team at Durston who have worked over the Christmas holidays to ensure that we are ready to deliver the remote learning to your homes as well as support so many boys of critical workers at school. I would also like to thank – the offers of help from parents to advise, support and contribute to the mass testing programme that we have in place. We are testing twice a week now and it is all running smoothly.
There really is a feeling of we are in this together and to this end I am going to appeal to all pupils to be the very best versions of themselves as we get through this last stage of the pandemic. Whilst there are things which may be beyond our immediate control, there are certainly things which we can control and influence, and opportunities that we can make the most of. Pupils should have the most organised term ever! Making time to develop their reading, whether in Reception or Year 8, or a member of staff, the Headmaster or a Governor.
Stay organised, put mobile phones away during lessons (if you have one), as you would if you were having a meal at home as a family, plan ahead, ask for help when you need it. Be extra kind and helpful to those around you at home, or in school, in person or online. Remember, Durston is here to support you. Boys – your Form teacher is there to support you with your organisation but also your wellbeing, every single member of staff here knows how important it is to support and listen, your academic progress is closely linked to your emotional wellbeing and your Form teachers are there for you.
The future may be uncertain, and there may be things that happen that we don’t expect in the year ahead, but there will also be things to enjoy and celebrate together. Let’s look for the positive and make sure we help each other along the way.