“Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up. But a child’s purpose is to be a child.” Tom Stoppard

The full quotation from which I have drawn my headline is really worth reading:

“Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up. But a child’s purpose is to be a child. Nature doesn’t disdain what lives only for a day. It pours the whole of itself into the each moment. We don’t value the lily less for not being made of flint and built to last. Life’s bounty is in its flow, later is too late. Where is the song when it’s been sung? The dance when it’s been danced? It’s only we humans who want to own the future, too. We persuade ourselves that the universe is modestly employed in unfolding our destination. We note the haphazard chaos of history by the day, by the hour, but there is something wrong with the picture. Where is the unity, the meaning, of nature’s highest creation? Surely those millions of little streams of accident and wilfulness have their correction in the vast underground river which, without a doubt, is carrying us to the place where we’re expected! But there is no such place, that’s why it’s called utopia. The death of a child has no more meaning than the death of armies, of nations. Was the child happy while he lived? That is a proper question, the only question. If we can’t arrange our own happiness, it’s a conceit beyond vulgarity to arrange the happiness of those who come after us.”

School is Out for the Summer – well almost. Thursday 16 July sees individuals from one year group of our senior girls visiting the senior boys site, where the local NHS team are completing their HPV vaccinations today. And Holiday Activities are In from Monday 20 July, to provide much needed cover for families in the school who need someone to exercise and entertain junior family members, whilst senior family members get on with work, the office etc.

The arrival of parents this week, returning school property of all kinds, including Chromebooks for an overhaul before ‘they’ go back out again in time for the next #closedown (hem hem, hopefully not) plus busking in the queue with Vaxer-parents has permitted me to test the water of a hypothesis we have been developing here, that all actually has not been lost, at least not yet.

Of course, families have had an awful lot to cope with over recent months, including the death of families and friends, Covdid and non-Covid related, perhaps employment, relationships and all sorts. It is also true that seeing the children in the flesh rather than via videoconference reminds us that that they have all grown and that for them, Covid-19 is actually something that has happened, perhaps making the normalisation of where we are now a little easier to bear.

The boys and girls tell me that they don’t feel they have fallen ‘behind’ in their school work, because of course they have no measure to take that by. Evidentially in their school work, they have kept going amazingly well, choosing to suffer ‘school-on-screen’ day in, day out and meet (and then some) the demands we have made of them for part 2s (homework in old money). Actually, with less busy-ness and more focussed time, us teachers have learned again that schools can be inefficient spaces; we don’t need to occupy the children all day in order to ‘make progress’. Actually, knowing that we will hold the to account for the solution we have asked them to provide, given time (and not eating too much into the night), they’ll be creative and innovative and delight us too.

Above all, we must remember that childhood is a unique time, and these are unique days we are in too, and it will jar for us because we had other hopes for the Summer 2020. But for all of our children, the Summer of 2020 must be permitted to run its course without the worry we adult might have about ‘causing them to catch-up before September. Let September come and then prepare for the academic term and year ahead. And in the meantime, let’s give everything we can to ensure this August is ‘open for children to be children’. May ‘Just William’ find old ladies’ sensitivities to ruffle, conkers to find, Jumble to run with. May ‘Violet Elizabeth’ prove once again that you can’t keep a good girl down, and as a ‘troupe’ the ‘Outlaws’ per se demonstrate anew that children are alive and well in their homes, gardens and community. After all, it is their childhood!

About jameswilding

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