We have fairly galloped through September, helped by the wonderful weather that month brought. Autumn seems now to be with us, but as I look out on the first puddles on the playground, I can reflect on how very well the return to school has gone. Your children have quickly settled to their learning, they have adapted very well to a school that has to be slightly different, and I continue to enjoy observing our pupils at work and at play. That play at break time, without football dominating, has been wonderfully imaginative. Working in a school is extremely rewarding when the pupils are so visibly enjoying themselves and so purposeful in the classroom.
We are now looking forward to Harvest Festival, elements of which we are planning to film, to marking Remembrance Day, to a recital, and to some of the big events of the second half of term. I am sad that we cannot invite you to these events as we usually would, but this Newsletter gives you a glimpse of life at school; visual testament to children enjoying life and learning at St Christopher’s.
During the week you received a letter from Mr Melton about the importance of reading. We are very grateful for what you are doing at home to encourage reading. It makes such a difference to every child’s learning as well as developing a habit which will bring lifetime joy.
Though sports fixtures are presently not possible and, very sadly, we cannot welcome parents to drama productions, recitals, or services, there is a very full and rich programme of co-curricular activities taking place in and outside school. Wednesday afternoon sees every child in Year 4 to Year 8 engaged in sport, our Year 3 are rehearsing for their drama performance. Choirs are preparing for a short Harvest Festival Service, and activities within year groups are being enjoyed by pupils of all ages. Yesterday I enjoyed watching girls and boys in Year 7 enjoying some cricket practice together. I could not resist joining in, only to be dismissed first ball by a pupil in Year 6. Where possible, major events will be filmed and made available remotely to parents, a result of the very admirable work done by Mr Holt.
I am fortunate enough to look out on the playground from my study and at break times I enjoy hearing the sounds of your children at play and watching the imaginative games they are devising. Our pupils have adapted remarkably well to a new way of doing things and seem very happy around the school. I have also enjoyed observing some very purposeful learning as I walk around the back court and pop into classrooms. Of course school is different this term, all schools are different at present, but any visitor would be struck by the joyful approach to learning of our pupils and by the noticeable bond which exists between teachers and their pupils. Many things remain just the same.
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.
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.
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.