March 2020 Blog
When I wrote my February blog, I had absolutely no idea really that by the time I would be writing my March blog, the College would be shut and we would all be living in a very different world. So much has happened to our reality in such a short space of time that it is a real challenge to try and make sense of it, let alone feel at ease or comfortable with it.
When the announcement came out on Wednesday 18th March that schools, colleges and universities were to close for the foreseeable future, my role as Headteacher changed from running a school to closing a school down; in just two days. It was heartbreaking and hard. In particular, I will never forget the bewilderment and confusion of the Year 11 students as they struggled to grasp the concept that the exams that they had been working towards had literally been cancelled overnight. Where one might have expected elation, there was deflation and tears. Many were and probably still are concerned about what the future might hold as the standard age-old rite of passage, of taking exams at 16 to pass on to the next stage, disappeared.
For some time I struggled to find the right words to say to the Year 11 students; words that could bring reassurance and hope, but in the end, I decided the main point was that COVID19 would not define their education and it would not be the definition of their future. It is true, that COVID19 has stripped them of their summer term, their final exams and all the end of term celebrations that go with marking the end of secondary education, such as the prom. However, COVID19 can never take the memories and all the rich experiences they have had over the last 4 and a half years. More importantly, COVID19 can never take from them all that they have learnt and now have as knowledge. This knowledge, including all the skills we have been embedding over the last few years, on how to learn, are their strength to move forward with. Adding to and growing that knowledge should be their immediate goal and ambition. Knowledge provides a future; knowledge is power, not necessarily the qualifications that bear testimony to an exam sat.
My hope is that over the last two weeks, and in the weeks after Easter, the Year 11 students will continue to plan proactively for their Further Education and keep their knowledge acquired so far sharp and ready for use in the future. At Crookhorn we remain ready to support and assist them in whatever way we can. I made them that promise and I will absolutely stand by it.
Concerning the rest of the College, we had to plan as thoroughly as we could over those two days, to get our virtual provision working as effectively as possible and what shape our ‘in college’ provision would take for students who require the support and for students of key workers. It was a challenge, but all the staff at the College were fantastic in their support and in their determination to help get it right for the students.
On Monday 23rd March, we had just run our first day of provision at the College and our first day of online learning, when the parameters changed again, and the country was put in lockdown. I am not afraid to admit that I really struggled that night. The thought of lockdown made me feel claustrophobic and with two boys of my own to manage as well, there was a certain degree of panic. This was truly unknown territory. How would I run a College in lockdown and how would I look after two boys and keep them happy and safe? These thoughts ran around my head all night. As my Mother pointed out to me later, the fact of the matter is, I did not have to know how, I just had to do it. This has been so true for so many families across Britain and the world in recent weeks. It is not a matter of liking it, it is a matter of doing it.
The journey regarding the delivery of online learning effectively has been vertical over the last two weeks and I am sure that this enforced process for all students will bear significant dividends in the
future. We have learnt so much (mainly from our mistakes!) in such a short space of time and we continue to ask key questions of the work that we set, with the aim that the students can and want to engage remotely. Let me tell you, it’s a whole different way of teaching. Teachers rely so much on their personal input in the classroom; but when that input is not there how do you engage students, particularly those who have no natural love for learning, because of the challenges it represents to them? I believe firmly that it is incredibly positive to think that through this challenge, our teaching and our learning will inevitably improve.
As I go to prepare dinner for myself and the boys ready to watch our favourite Sunday night programme of Race Around the World (it helps remind us that there is a beautiful world out there beyond the virus), I wish all in the Crookhorn community well. I thank you for all the messages of support that we have had; they mean so much and I ask you all to continue to heed the Government instruction of stay in and stay safe.
“Happiness can be found even at the darkest of times, if one just remembers to turn the light on”
“We do not live alone. We are members of one body."
- J B Priestley.