There has been a suitably festive atmosphere at school in the last 2 weeks. Last week, the school hosted its first whole-school production, Mary Poppins, for two years. It was an incredible event, with two of our local primary schools (Hamble and Netley) viewing it on Tuesday, and three performances in the evening for parents and carers. There was also a great turnout from staff. thank you to all the staff who ran this (the list of staff involved is far too long to mention everyone). it’s an important reminder that school life is not only about working hard for GCSE and BTEC qualifications. It’s a long time since I left school, but my clearest memories are not those of the lessons I attended. I have very fond memories of playing sport for the school, trips into London to see art galleries, museums and theatre productions (I grew up in London so it was easier for us to do this), being a member of the chess team, and a skiing trip where I accidently found myself on a slope that was far too steep for me. I still remember the fear and excitement as I hurtled down this slope before crashing spectacularly. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Memories like that are why we have tried hard to keep this half-term as normal as possible, despite the increasing covid numbers. I know that many of us have been concerned by the escalation in cases- my daughter tested positive this week and is devastated that she is now confined to the house until Christmas Eve- but our attitude has been to keep doing what we would normally do, with suitable mitigations in place. On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, we served almost 400 Christmas dinners to students in the Dining Hall. Part of the tradition is that I serve the children, ably supported by members of the Senior Leadership Team. This year, Mrs Pennington-Chick and Mrs Morgan pitched in to serve up all of these meals. I’m not sure what Mrs Morgan’s catering professional catering experience is, but both Mrs Pennington-Chick and myself rolled back the years to our previous experiences of working as McDonalds’ crew members (mine is considerably longer ago).
Yesterday, we took 50 Year 11 students to Alexandra Palace in North London to watch a wonderfully-atmospheric production of A Christmas Carol. Although I’ve read the novel many times and watched countless film versions of it, I had never seen it staged until yesterday. The Year 11s, whose behaviour was exemplary, thoroughly enjoyed it too, especially a couple of ‘jump scares’ that made the students sitting next to me jump up in fright. Thank you so much to the staff who ran this event and to Mrs Barkshire for inviting me. As an English teacher, I love being able to go to the theatre.
As you know from our recent correspondence, we are having a slightly staggered start to the beginning of term. This is because we have been asked to offer one lateral flow test to all students. A programme has been sent out to you explaining all of this and you can find the letters on our school website. We will be delivering remote education on these two days. The Xelabus service will not run on Tuesday 4th January but will operate from Wednesday 5th January.
We have also taken the difficult decision to switch Year 11 Parents’ evening (on Thursday 6th January) and Year 7 Parents’ Evening (on Thursday 13th January) to virtual ones because of the new covid variant. The plan is still to move back to face-to-face evenings once it is safe to do so.
The escalation of covid is a concern. We have been living with this pandemic now for 21 months and it is frustrating to still not to be able to run a school normally. I would urge everyone to continue taking two lateral flow tests each week as this helps to reduce the amount of covid in the school itself. Packs have been given to all students. Thankfully, we have remained open every day this term but I am aware that several local schools have been forced to send year groups home because of a lack of staffing. Testing regularly keeps everyone safer and reduces the risk of having to put year groups on remote education.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone in the school community for their support and kind words throughout the term (and the year). I hope that you all have a good Christmas break and I look forward to seeing your children back in the New Year. Happy Christmas!