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Wise words for back to school

Sanity resumed! We’re relieved they’re back – but a bit nervous too. Time for some more wise words from our Hampshire Heads.

Back to school pupil walking with backpack

After what feels like an eternity, our kids are finally back to school. We can enjoy a peaceful morning cuppa. Conference calls won’t need to be preceded by military planning. And at the end of the school day, we’ll be more pleased than ever to find out what they’ve been up to.

These days we’re all remote working and learning pros. But this lockdown has felt a whole lot harder than the first. Latest studies back up what we’re all feeling, finding that parents and children have suffered even more with the demands of work and education at home. A majority (63%) of parents reported their children were struggling, compared with 43% last April [ONS].

Time, then, for another much-needed pastoral pep-talk. Pour a coffee, sit back and find out what our local heads have to say about the return to school, the year ahead – and the potential silver linings of a year that’s turned our worlds upside down.

Back to school – a welcome return

Pupils at The Gregg School running

“Our students are prepared, resilient, capable, determined, joyful and genuinely engaged with their learning,” says Sheri Sellers, Headteacher at The Gregg School in Southampton (above). “During the last year they have matured in independence and have really grown to appreciate and value what they have, their relationships with each other and their teachers.

“I’m very much looking forward to the noise and giggling in corridors that means we are back and moving around school. I thought it was something that I wouldn’t miss – but my goodness I do. Here’s to a happy and healthy return to school – bring it on!” 

Extracurricular learning – the missing essential

“I am keen to get children playing team sports and making the most of our outdoor grounds ” says Jonathan Brough of St. Swithuns Prep in Winchester. “Lockdown fitness can’t give them the same sense of joint teamwork and cooperation.

“The other aspect of education that has been absent is the enormous benefit that can come from trips and visits. Once the vaccines have firmly beaten the virus into submission, we really need to get the children out and about, learning first-hand in their environment and visiting theatres, museums, galleries and residential centres once again. School is about life, not just about textbooks.”

Forres Sandle Manor pupils playing in a music lesson
Playing music at Forres Sandle Manor. Activities are vital, says Head Jody Wells.

“The next and most important challenge of all is continuing to ensure the children get the very best education they deserve within the restraints that we work under,” says Jody Wells, Headmaster at Forest Sandle Manor School, near Fordingbridge.

“Unlike academic progression, the benefits of extracurricular activities, social time, sports’ fixtures and public performance through music concerts or drama productions are a little harder to assess but we all know their benefits are huge. Maintaining such avenues for pupils amid tight restrictions takes imagination and effort, but is vital nonetheless.”

Resilience and community

Peter Thacker, Headmaster at Princes Mead School near Winchester is optimistic about the remainder of the academic year. In particular, he believes the shared experience will unite the cohort: “Whilst the last year has been tough for all members of our school community, I have sensed that our pupils have learnt so much about themselves,” he says. “We will come out of this all the stronger, and even closer as a community, too.”

Alton School Head Karl Guest children at school

“I’m confident that we will grow stronger because of what we have been through over the past year,” agrees Karl Guest, Headmaster at Alton School (above). “Our students, staff and wider school community have demonstrated – clearer than ever – their determination to succeed, their resilience and their true spirit of ‘student-first’. With this at the centre of everything that we do, we will face whatever challenges lie ahead of us.”

Catalyst for growth

Rebecca Smith, Headteacher at Stroud School in Romsey also sees the potential to come back stronger: “Not only have our IT skills improved exponentially, but we have gained an appreciation of the important things in life and the quieter, simpler ways to spend our time,” she says.

“It’s possible that 2021 may not see a full return to normality, but we will make the most of the hand we have been dealt. For the coming year we have prioritised investment in our outdoor learning facilities and our new wellbeing centre. If this is the legacy of the pandemic at Stroud then we will be able to say some good has come out of it.”

Stroud School children pupils reading a book together
Pupils at Stroud School. Head Rebecca Smith is prioritising outdoor learning.

“There have been so many amazing lessons learned over the last year there’s no doubt we will never go back to a teaching and learning approach such as we had before,” says Deborah Henderson, Headteacher at St Neots School, near Hook. “Children and teachers have adapted to the use of technology in a way we could never have envisaged happening in such a short period of time.

“The community spirit and collective memory of having been through some unbelievably tough times will stay with this generation of children, their parents and teachers for the rest of their lives. We will emerge stronger and more effective as a result, with lessons learned, positive changes made, agility adopted, flexibility essential and a greater appreciation and value for every person in our schools, homes and workplaces.”

Worried about your child? The Mental Health Foundation has advice and information on returning to school after lockdown.

Find more ideas here


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