In Assembly on Thursday morning, Mr Groves gave an excellent presentation on ‘Coding’, drawing to the attention of pupils and some staff how very central this is to establishing programs without which modern day life could not operate. From mobile phones, to cars, to computers, to traffic lights, the technological revolution which has so dominated the last fifty years is awe inspiring and no doubt change will be even more rapid over the next fifty years. Your children are growing up in a highly technological age, a world in which creativity and imagination will be most important qualities. As Mr Groves said, perhaps we count amongst our number the next Bill Gates. The response to the present pandemic through which we are living also highlights very starkly the importance of both science and technology, as well as limitations which still exist.
As Headmaster, I am acutely aware that this world cannot be denied and that children will spend time in front of a screen. I am also very conscious that the young spend too much time looking at a screen. That is why I take great joy from seeing our pupils enjoy play, sport and outdoor activities which take them away from the screen and why teachers have been asked to set tasks for homework which minimise screen time. A balance is so important.
I particularly enjoyed seeing Year 1 returning from their Beach Learning on Wednesday morning and it is a joy to watch Reception children explore the space they have at Glebe Villas. I hope that the sunny weather forecast for the weekend will afford you all time to enjoy the great outdoors.
It is very uplifting to see pupils of all ages arriving at the various school entrances each morning, some after an absence from school since mid-March. The back court and front playground are once again full of vibrant energy and I have enjoyed seeing the purposeful approach in classrooms as pupils forge those vital relationships with each other and with their teachers. New pupils and those who are used to St Christopher’s have settled remarkably well and have quickly adapted to the changes in place to provide a safe and fulfilling learning and playing environment.
The classroom layout is different, timetables and schedules are slightly different, hand hygiene and cleaning regimes are very rigorous. Sport, music, drama and activities have been adapted as have arrival and dismissal times, though much is the same. I am very grateful to you, our parents, for taking the changes in your stride. It is incredibly important for children and for childhood that schools are open and that they remain open and this will depend as much as anything the school does on sensible social distancing at the gates and in the playground at pick up and drop off time.
It saddens me that we are not able to invite parents into the school for a whole variety of occasions and events, but we will continue to deploy the technology available to ensure that you feel very much a part of our community.
Last Friday, you should have received a copy of the 2019-20 Yearbook, celebrating the achievements of last year, and our life before lockdown. If one of these did not make it home, please contact the Office. Our weekly Newsletter will offer you a window into the life of the school and give you a glimpse of all that our teachers and pupils are doing. I hope you enjoy the first edition of the new academic year and that you are able to make the most of a sunny weekend with your children.
On Thursday morning I had the very pleasing task of writing to every one of our Year 8 pupils to congratulate them on examination results, which showed terrific progress over the year and reflect the very strong academic foundations they will take with them to their senior schools.
Their final term at St Christopher’s is far from what they, their teachers, and I would have wanted or expected, but the fortitude they have shown makes us all very proud of them. So too with pupils in other years. Analysis of end of year assessments and of subject reports shows that they have made very good academic progress, and that many have developed skills as remote learners which will serve them extremely well moving forwards.
It is difficult, of course, to replicate the sunny and joyfully celebratory occasions which are features of the Summer Term but I hope that our pupils will all participate in the remote Sports’ Day, Sponsored Walk, and Donate-a-Day, about which you have received letters. Two of these days involve giving and it is no bad thing to focus on charity as a diversion from our own very natural frustrations and needs. Our four Houses will be raising money for Rockinghorse, Sussex Nightstop, Whoopsadaisy and Off the Fence.
I have been very impressed by the engagement our pupils have shown in a rich variety of co-curricular activities over the course of the term. Baking has clearly been popular, and so too the creative arts. It has been uplifting to see the photographs, the paintings, the models, the cakes, and the many other examples of imaginative projects. I am equally pleased to see that the old art of letter writing is being practised by our oldest and youngest children. At a time when technology is more important than ever, a handwritten letter counts for so much, and simple pleasures have taken on a new importance.
Our pupils have clearly also thrown themselves into charity initiatives, as the pictures of the Sponsored Walk featured in this edition show. Sam in Year 5 running the equivalent of a marathon is worth special mention. I am delighted that so many children participated to raise money for the excellent work done by our House charities. Thinking of others and doing for others have been fulfilling diversions at a time when our pupils have had every right to languish in self-pity.
The unprecedented strangeness of life as it is today will be something your children will never forget. The fortitude they have shown has been remarkable. I am so pleased that we are able to welcome our Year 8 pupils back to school next week for a few fun events and activities. We have not been able to celebrate all that they have achieved at St Christopher’s as we would have liked, or as they have deserved, but we are extremely proud of them.
It has been lovely to see children in classrooms and to hear the sounds of joy in the playground as the school makes those tentative first steps back to normality. We are, of course, far from total normality: desks are arranged to enable distancing, the children in school are operating in defined small groups, signs are everywhere, everything is a little more regimented, and only a quarter of our pupils are back in school. They are nonetheless enjoying the chance to be with their friends and to play, albeit at an appropriate distance.
Assessment results suggest that progress under a whole new style of learning has been very good across the year groups, and I know that our pupils continue to benefit from lessons which are stimulating and engaging. There will be more to come but senior staff and teachers are looking to introduce a programme of cross-curricular learning from which our most senior pupils will benefit enormously and which will bring a little more variety to their academic diet. We are also looking into replicating remotely our Sports’ Days, the Sponsored Walk, Donate a Day, and other end of term events. I remain hopeful that we will be able to hold some live events for our wonderful Year 8 pupils, even if those events have to be delayed to late August.
By the time you receive this Newsletter, those Year 8 pupils will have completed Common Entrance or Scholarship papers. We are very proud of every single one of them.