‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ – African proverb.

Lockdown II finished last Wednesday and with its conclusion I realised that I hadn’t updated this blog for a month. Not that you haven’t heard from me- there was a period earlier this month when I was writing coronavirus letters to the school community on a daily basis- but I wanted to update you on what is going on generally in the school. Throughout November it’s fair to say that most of my energies have been focused on dealing with the impact of the wave of cases we experienced, as well as managing the school through the second lockdown period.

What was particularly moving last month was the Remembrance Day we celebrated on Wednesday 11th November. Obviously, everything was socially-distanced and the assembly was virtual rather than in the hall, but the display outside the Skills Centre was in my opinion the best one yet, and it was very moving when we played the Last Post across the school and showed a two-minute silence in respect for those who have lost their lives in conflicts. I am always very proud of being part of the school community when we come together like this in a common cause.

Another common cause is the support we are giving to the Hound Basics Food Bank. It’s not the first time we have supported this worthy cause (we donated food back in July this year as well) but we recognise that Christmas is a particular time of hardship for many families. A letter went out to encourage students, if they can, to bring in donations. Thank you to Mrs Wigginton, who is particularly passionate about this charity and has been instrumental in organizing this food collection. A reminder of what the Food Bank is looking for is copied below:

You will probably all know that the government has explicitly forbidden schools to close early for Christmas- this was in response to a group of schools in the North (where coronavirus is much more virulent that in Hampshire) deciding that they would close on Friday 11th December in part to ensure that people (staff, students and families) weren’t being asked to self-isolate over Christmas. That’s my nightmare scenario at the moment- that we have another wave of cases in the last week of term and I have to write letters saying that people need to self-isolate until the New Year. I completely understand (and agree with) the idea that schools need to be kept open because I know that for many of you it would create issues of childcare if the schools closed a week early, but I am dreading the potential writing of letters on Friday 18th December advising staff/students to self-isolate until Friday 1st January. No-one wants that.

With that in mind, I am continuing the expectation that students (and staff) wear face coverings in classrooms as well as inside the school buildings. This is going further than the current Department for education guidance but I think it’s the right thing to do.

I would also ask you again to reinforce with your children the need to socially-distance where possible. By that, I mean that face-to-face contact should be avoided at all times and there should be no physical contact (e.g. hugging, sharing food etc). This whole situation is terrible- we are now 8 ½ months into this pandemic and I can feel the sense of weariness in the staff and students- but we have to carry on as best we can until the vaccine has been distributed and we know that people are no longer at risk. Children often don’t have the same sense of risk and danger that we have as adults (we were all like that once) so naturally some of them forget. It is our job (staff and families) to remind them why all of these restrictions are in place, without increasing the stress that they may already be feeling. If that sounds difficult, then you have just had an insight into what it’s like to lead a school through a pandemic this term.

Speaking about risk, I’d like to raise the subject of cycling helmets again. this week, I have seen far too many students cycling into school without a helmet. I could reprint all kinds of data here that would support my argument but I think we would all agree that not wearing a helmet, especially when the roads are wet and the visibility poor, is dangerous. Please support us by impressing upon your child the need to be as safe as possible when cycling to and from school.

Have a good week.