The Junior School returns but not as we know it…

It did not take long for the USS Indianapolis to sink. Having been struck by a torpedo the massive ship sank in just twelve short minutes. Sailing alone there were no escorts to pick up the survivors who found themselves adrift in the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 900 of the ships company made it into the water. Four long days later the survivors were rescued. Only 317 had survived the ordeal. The crew of the Indianapolis have the dubious honour of having experienced the worst recorded shark attack in human history.

Reporting of the COVID 19 outbreak often sounds rather like we are living through an experience similar to that faced by those unfortunate sailors. The truth is likely to be far less extreme. We have had to modify our plans and our normal way of life. For some this has been a time of great sadness and for others significant anxiety and we are very right to be wary of taking the next step. Care is required to ensure that we remain as safe as we can, and we need to do all we can to ensure that we don’t jump from one dangerous situation to another.

The Junior School opened its doors to pupils this week and a small number have chosen to attend. We have been fortunate in having an opportunity to develop our approach and it is certainly the case that the school day is very different indeed. In the coming weeks I suspect that numbers wanting to return will build and this will bring with it more challenges to be met. Space remains the biggest challenge of all. All pupils are allocated a metre square so the classrooms I once saw as generous in size have been made much smaller – only 9 pupils per teaching space. We can’t have groups larger than 15 so our hall is not as much use as it normally is. School is very different, and I have to say I’d rather not be wearing a mask as I type this column… .

I have no way of predicting how the pandemic will develop for our community. It will be the case that a flexible approach will be necessary both from the School and from families. It is almost certain that some year groups will move to a carousel approach to attendance as the term progresses. Both the staffing and space constraints required for appropriate distancing mean that a rota system will be necessary, and it looks like remote learning will remain in place for some time to come. Apologies in advance for the inconvenience this may cause but it is all done with a desire to keep both pupils and staff safe and to remain within the guidelines that have been established.

The School, like so many other institutions is adjusting to the demands of a new way of operating and we all need to be ready for one or two bumps along the road. Plans will change, but when we make changes it will be to ensure that we don’t end up jumping from a sinking ship into shark infested water. I hope that you can remain patient as everything starts up once again. Thank you for your ongoing support in these somewhat turbulent waters – it is greatly appreciated.

Nicholas Hammond