March 8th: a date that parents, teachers and children across the country dared to hope for has (with the only level of certainty we can hope for in these times) been confirmed.
This is a return to school in a whole and physical sense as, of course, schools have continued to provide care for key worker and vulnerable children, and, based in a city of vaccine production and outstanding healthcare provision, there have been many requiring this support. Teachers across the world, for whom a year ago ‘Zoom’ was an expression of travelling quickly or a function on a camera, have adapted incredibly, taking education from school to screen, and they should be celebrated for this.
We have been astounded by the level of creativity our own teachers have demonstrated in delivering lessons online, from a highly anticipated weekly Maths Countdown game show, and puppet storytelling, to daily PE challenges and Science experiments. We have found ways to continue to deliver an enrichment programme through a huge range of creative activities and challenges, including online STEM club, Young Medics club, virtual choir, and by taking advantage of the abundance of online trips on offer, into museums and other places of interest, and across the world.
Our sense of community has never been more important. At Sancton Wood the Principal has delivered a daily Breakfast Briefing, bringing the school together at the start of each day, during which we have celebrated academic work and weekly achievements. We have also found ways to enjoy our favourite events of the year with a virtual Sports Day, Prize Giving and Book Week. Wellbeing has been a top priority for us. We celebrated birthdays with online parties, delivered letters and gifts to our younger students, and offered clear sources of support.
We have been humbled by how communities across the world have come together to support one another and this is very much the case at Sancton Wood too, as we have thought about others in need. Our children became penpals with and performed poetry for a local care home; they came together to create a work of art thanking the NHS; and we have donated to a range of charities. The pandemic may have kept us apart physically but in other ways, as a team, we have never been closer. We have had a shared determination to continue to deliver the best education for our students and to support one another through this difficult, but shared experience.
As a school that provides an all-through education from 9 months to 16 years, we have had much to analyse, plan and prepare for, and we are ready to welcome our students back safely. We look forward to our corridors being alive with the buzz of our students again and for the return of the sound of laughter and chatter in our classrooms and playgrounds. However, there are things that we can take away from this whole experience: innovations in technology we can continue to embrace; a potential new way of thinking of how we assess our students at GCSE; the recognition teachers have received as parents have experienced a deeper understanding of the job they do; and a desire to support our community like never before.