“It’s their childhood they have at school, not just their learning”.

It is very likely that by the time my words are published, the ‘news’ has broken that our entire junior and nursery school is to be back up and running from Monday 22 June. Now we have chosen to do this because it is the right thing to do for the ages of the children involved. It is not just our experience of the last 10 days that is highlighting just how important the opportunities to be taught in person are, but also how equally essential there needs to be contact between young people.

I could write many more words at this stage, but here’s executive head, Justin Spanswick explaining the principles and arrangements we have in place for our reopening.

As we have been developing our plans to reopen our school since the moment we were shut down on Friday 20 March, it has very much surprised us that so many heads, teachers and their unions seem not to have acted in like manner, awaiting the government’s advice and direction. And when I say we, I am not suggesting that Claires Court was unique in this approach. Far from it, for as far as I can see, the vast majority of our sector is now back up and running at similar levels as we have been, and can plan to be even more engaged from September onwards. Our own strategy for remote learning planned for 6 weeks of cover, before reopening on Monday 8 June. Whilst it is a very great pity that Years 7,8 and 9 can’t be included in the roll out of back to school just now, actually for Year 9 we have been able to accelerate their commencement of their GCSE courses, and for Year 7 & 8, they are so very much into the swing of work and play each day, that it’s clear their learning as such is not suffering.

With all of the above in mind, it was with very great pleasure I took up the invitation from BBC Radio 4’s World at One on Wednesday this week, to face Sarah Montague’s inquisition on why we felt entitled and permitted to act in the way we have. Do listen from 7.10 for the full interview here: http://ow.ly/HmG050Ab35f, I pitch in circa 9.20.

Sarah was pretty fair in her questioning, enabling me to answer rather more fully than some newshounds do, to illustrate the bigger picture around school reopening. That teed me up quite nicely for the my final statement, used for this blog’s title. Over the past decades, government simply does not seem to understand that school is so very much more than just education, and its slow and steady subsummation under the testing cosh means that a general comprehension of the wider role of schools as vital centres of education, health and care in their community has been lost.

During #lockdown, our school, adults and children, have had to learn totally new ways of teaching and learning, living and breathing, on-line and at home. 10 weeks in now, we are planning to incorporate a number of our new ways of working into our curriculum plans and delivery. I have never witnessed such a degree of innovation, creativity and plain stubborn grit and determination in my professional life before, and I am incredibly proud (and relieved) that my teaching staff, our student learners and their parents & guardians have come shining through. I cannot wait for this enormous feat of endurance to end, as it has been utterly exhausting, with only 1 day off since that 20 March really for our entire leadership team. When we do close in just under 4 weeks time, we will do so still working to the maximum, knowing that ‘the job is not done until it’s done!’

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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