Communication between those who find themselves separated in these times has taken on a new resonance, and I am delighted to hear that our oldest pupils will spend a little time over Half Term crafting hand-written letters to their Reception and Year 1 Buddies. Our culture of nurture and kindness is at the heart of St Christopher’s, and I am sure that the letters received by our very youngest pupils will make them feel that we are still very much one big family, and inspire them to practise their own writing in reply. At a time when technology reigns, some things will remain timeless, and be looked back upon as precious in future years.
This edition of the Newsletter contains much evidence of the engaging and creative lessons delivered by our dedicated, inspiring, and resourceful teachers. An article in Tuesday’s edition of The Times assumed that independent schools are “delivering lessons each morning via a Hogwarts’ owl”. Whilst I cannot claim St Christopher’s Remote Learning Programme is quite as exciting as that, the comments I continue to receive suggest that your children are learning and thriving in these unusual times. As well as evidence of this, our Newsletter continues to feature some marvellous examples of the Co-Curricular projects being undertaken every afternoon. I hope the passions for art, construction, cookery, gardening, sporting activity, and newfound creativity in general are all things that will transcend lockdown.
We have, I believe, some glorious weather ahead of us during Half Term. I hope you and your families can make the most of it. There are promising signs of a return to normality, true community, and celebration on the other side of it. There may be a way to go yet, but we go there together.
There are few things more English than cricket and few sounds resonate more through our summer than the sound of willow on leather on the playing fields of England. I am reminded of that wonderful poem by Sir Henry Newbolt: There’s a breathless hush in the Close tonight / Ten to make and the match to win. One of the sad consequences of lockdown is that there might not be any cricket this season, and the ‘hush’ on cricket grounds throughout the country will be for other reasons. However, not to be deterred, the Year 8 boys and girls have each put together a short cricket themed video.
Baking is another great national tradition and it has been lovely to receive pictures of your children cooking and the delicious looking results of their labours. On Thursday afternoon there took place what was almost certainly the first Domestic Science lesson ever taught in the Lab at St Christopher's. One former Science teacher, Mr Scott, will perhaps be horrified by such unorthodox use of a Bunsen burner, but those children in school thoroughly enjoyed it. See the final page for details.
Above these words you will see a wonderful drawing by Jensen in Year 4. He worked from memory, but I hope this is a scene we will all be able to draw from life again very soon, from the sunshine of the front playground. I will be writing soon about the plans for a return to classroom learning for some year groups, and hold out hopes that others will follow.
Some of our community are currently observing the holy month of Ramadan; sacred privations upon the privations of lockdown, and my sincere respect is given to those of our older children who have observed its rules for the first time this year. The attendant celebrations with extended family will have to wait, the delivery of presents may be a little slow via Amazon, but the approach of Eid gives a reason to find happiness in these strange times.
Our Year 8 Scholarship class have just written an RS & Philosophy essay entitled "If the Coronavirus is a test from God, then we have passed. Discuss." Many pointed out that it is not just observing social distancing that will make this event notable in future history books, but a re-energised concern for those most vulnerable in our society, and for those who work so hard to look after us. We are all also appreciating the simple pleasures in life: good food, family life and learning, whilst missing the social interaction which we so take for granted.
I hope that next Friday, the celebration of VE Day, will bring the nation together, just as it did seventy five years ago after a period of privation far worse than the one we are living through. Vera Lynnís songs will echo through our homes carrying a little more resonance and, though celebrations might be more muted than was the intention before lockdown, her wonderfully evocative words should bring hope just as they did during far darker times.
As week four of remote learning draws to a close, it is worth reflecting on things about which we can be pleased. The fortitude of your children is certainly one, as they manage impressively a process very new to them and restrictions very alien. The dedication of their teachers is another, as they work harder than ever to ensure that learning continues apace and that support is given to their pupils which goes well beyond academic lessons. A third is the sense of community which has seen parents, teachers and pupils pulling together and trying to support each other. We haven’t got everything right in our provision – no school has – but I think we can be satisfied, even proud, of what has been achieved.
The children who have been in school have been wonderfully cheerful. In many ways they have been like a big family with the oldest helping the very youngest and a real culture of support the most noticeable feature. It is rather a large family, but seeing them play, witnessing that wide eyed wonder which learning brings and watching the interaction between children of all ages has been a joy.
I hope that you are all able to enjoy a break over the lengthened weekend. Of course the celebrations to mark Victory in Europe cannot be as intended, or replicate the coming together of the nation in one giant party in May, 1945. However, I do believe that Friday will offer us the opportunity to reflect on why it is important to mark the 75th Anniversary of the beginning of a peace in Europe which has lasted. Sunday will bring important news about the gradual lifting of lockdown. I hope that it is news which is good for you all and for your children.
It is almost a month ago that we all stood outside our front doors to applaud all those working for our National Health Service for the first time, and exactly a month since lockdown began. It is a joy to see the children who are on site playing in a sunny playground, just as it is uplifting to metaphorically thumb through the pages of this Newsletter. It is testament to the creativity, the imagination, and the optimism of your children. I hope that you and they continue to find plenty to be grateful for in the small things which we perhaps notice and enjoy more as a result of the very unusual position we all find ourselves in. The detailed pictures of flowers in the Art section suggest that children are taking time to observe nature closely.
There is plenty of evidence within of doing – of painting, of working, of baking and of playing – but I hope that your children are also enjoying just being, for ‘What is this life if full of care, there is not time to stand and stare?’.
Communications from parents and conversations with teachers suggest that your children are responding wonderfully well to remote learning, but we are also looking to hone and improve what we are doing weekly. I suspect that every one of us will look back on this time as a defining one in our lives. Your children might wish to record their own experiences of lockdown in writing, through art and photography or in other forms.
I do hope that you all have the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine and time with your family over the weekend.