“The key thing is knowing how to adapt.”

“The key thing is knowing how to adapt.”

Didier Deschamps

If gaining understanding is one of the hallmarks of a good education, then we are perhaps fortunate to have teachers as demanding as the Omicron variant. Since the middle of last month, we’ve begun to understand what “the same but different” means when it comes to this new variety of COVID and how it requires us to think in new and original ways about the things that we want to do. Without doubt the holiday period was a time of uncertainty and worry for many as well laid travel plans were modified, adjusted or sadly abandoned, but judging by the cheery faces of returning pupils fun was had. I hope that everyone in our community found the chance to rest and enjoy some festive cheer. We return to slightly more stringent protocols in some areas but greater freedom in others. Thus, we are perhaps starting to understand the nature of the long road to normality and also some of the challenges that we may face along the way.

At the start of term, it is good to consider what it is we would like to achieve. The School’s overriding aim is to ensure continuity of high quality education. This is already proving challenging as some in our community have tested positive, others are searching for tests as cas contacts, and the rest wonder when it will be that they will be affected. On Thursday morning there were only 2 classes in the Junior School that had not been affected by Omicron in some way, the Senior School had only one unaffected year group. As a right we have cases in all years. Judging by these numbers we are all wise to have a Plan B. Our aim is to stay open for as long as it is safe to, we are looking to provide materials for those who are forced to learn at home and if necessary (or instructed to do so) we will teach remotely. Experience over the last year and a half has taught us that running a hybrid system of teaching in place and remote learning is not effective; we are better to be doing one thing or the other – educating remotely or education in person. We’ve been fortunate so far in only having to move to remote learning for a comparatively short period of time. I commiserate with colleagues elsewhere in the world who are now counting the length of remote schooling in half yearly chunks or longer. What effect this will have for children is difficult to predict. It may be the case that we decide, should numbers increase dramatically, that we will move to remote teaching but will remain able to have pupils on site so that alongside effective online lessons, social interaction (however limited) can be enjoyed. We are trying to find ways to preserve sporting, musical, dramatic and other activities – we want to provide these opportunities for development and enjoyment. Postponement may occur but we are looking to do as much as we are able within the rules. Virtual events help us here, next week holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper will speak to the school and parents are warmly invited to join us via their devices.

The Spring Term is a demanding one. Those preparing for exams start to move up a gear and for some this is the end of their first week in a new school. It can be a term of great advances as we look to build on all that was achieved in the first term, so we will not be coddling, we will be challenging! Our calendar and programmes may well have to be adapted but our aim is to preserve continuity and to give opportunity for growth and development Above all we will endeavour to be supportive.

Here’s to a great Spring Term, whatever it throws at us.

Nicholas Hammond