Back in the Classroom

Another week, another wave of negative and disturbing headlines. If our young people are to judge the state of the world by the front pages of news websites and newspapers then they would have every reason to feel disheartened and wonder what on earth is going on with the world they are set to inherit.

The restart of term after a half term holiday is always a mix of emotions. Pupils have unwound and need to gear up once more. Our youngest pupils are normally super keen to rejoin friends and continue with the excitement of their learning and the older pupils are looking at a period of the year where serious academic progress has to be made – this half term is the engine room of academic progress. Across the board there is a little bit of self-doubt, some exhilaration, and this year a more significant degree of uncertainty. There is a job to be done both at home and in school to ensure that this feeling is kept in check, that our young people are not only affected by COVID concerns but also the seemingly unstable world in which we live.

It would be nothing short of fantastic to be able to offer a clear prediction of what will happen over the coming six weeks. Sadly, I can no more do this with any degree of accuracy than can our political leaders, distinguished scientists, or eminent statisticians! There are some possible scenarios for us that we need to consider – carry on with everyone onsite, a partial lockdown or a full lockdown. Having just read the tea leaves at the bottom of my morning cuppa, I’d say we are wise to consider the likelihood of a partial lockdown. From my (admittedly) local view of life outside our gates it seems to be fairly normal and as such infections rates could well rise. M. Blanquer has recently mooted split year attendance in the upper secondary years, albeit heavily caveated and very much being left to the school’s judgement. For us, a relatively small school with dispersed optional classes in the upper years, I am not (presently) looking at this as a viable possibility for the BSP. We are at our most effective when we have pupils in class and teachers in front of them. We can take reasonable and proportionate measures to protect, our aim is continuity of learning.

Being in the classroom is the core of what we do. It applies to both our youngest learners and those in Year 13. Alexander Pope said something along the lines of “education is experience understood upon reflection”, the presence of both pupil and teacher in the same space make this process far easier. Charles Handy once said he had seen some ancient graffiti carved on a school desk that simply read “It is the job of the teachers to bring out the genius that is in each pupil.” Not so easy when both pupil and teacher are behind a mask, even more difficult when they are not in the same room. Clearly we will follow the instructions that we are given and we will not knowingly put people at risk, but as far as possible this half term will be about making progress in school, about learning and about finding that academic spark in every one of our pupils. If we can do that amid the turmoil that surrounds us it will have been a successful term indeed.

Nicholas Hammond