Head of Hill House Junior School, Mr Hall, considers the effect the current situation may have on our future...
The internet and social media, have not always been my best friend here at Hill House School. On many occasions we have had to deal with incidents and fall outs between students (and sometimes parents!) that originated online and began out of school. It is too often a hiding place for unkindness and many times have we warned of the dangers and the need for parents to supervise children’s access. In these difficult times however, we are seeing how being online can be used in a positive way; of course this has always been the case – but now it is allowing family and friends to keep in touch; it is maintaining social cohesion and enabling teachers to continue to deliver their lessons. The longer this lockdown continues, the more important these online links will become.
We continue to teach the children remotely, always considering safeguarding, mental health and wellbeing, and other forms of virtual learning. A lot of things are being posted by individuals and companies to help us through these times and while it is fantastic that children across the country can now have Mr Attenborough as their Geography teacher, not all are beneficial or helpful to pupils.
When we are no longer here and the history of 2020 is written, I wonder in what manner our behaviour and reactions will be recorded; what will they say about us a society? Will it be about empty supermarket shelves caused by panic buying and selfishness, when medical staff could not access food supplies after their 18 hour shifts? Individuals arrested for coughing in the faces of paramedics and the elderly? Will it be the way some corporate leaders, including some of the biggest brand names in the country, have behaved towards the most poorly paid members of their staff? Perhaps it will be the people flouting the lockdown rules set by the Government?
Or will it be about April evenings at 8pm when communities unite to applaud NHS staff, the doctors, nurses, technicians, porters, cleaners and care workers who are at the front line of our battle against the virus? Will it be about Captain Tom Moore raising over £28 million for the NHS? Will it be about the questions and difficulties that home education is asking of all of us, but which we are overcoming? Will it be about the many random acts of kindness that are reported each and every day and often go unnoticed?
I know which I would prefer, but I can’t help thinking that, as a society, we are at crossroads, and the path we take has never been more important. The news last weekend that the restrictions in place for a minimum of the next three weeks, is bound to have a profound effect on the way we do things: what will be normal by the time children return to school? A crises such as this will shape history.
These are strange challenging times, but hope and opportunities are abound – it was great to hear of pupils working so hard, supporting each other and raising money for charity. Science will bring us better testing kits, better treatments for those who are ill, and ultimately a vaccine. It pleases me that institutions across the world are working together as one to accelerate these advances.
There are opportunities ahead in many other areas of our lives; the way we work and where we work may be different, are all those face to face meetings I have really necessary? The way we educate your children may never be the same again; what can we learn from online learning, how will it benefit the children in 20 years’ time? So, who knows, the new normal could bring change for the good. As a nation, in schools we have become so obsessed and driven by assessment, (more than any other country in Europe), that we have got to the point where, without an assessment, we feel that we cannot prove learning has taken place – this is not right. Children constantly learn new things, develop skills and grow intellectually, physically, socially and emotionally. This happens every single day.
When the Government decide we can safely return to school, which is something we all long for, we have to think really hard about what and who is important? We have to value what is really important – at this point in time, we cannot survive as a nation, without our farmers, shelf stackers, delivery drivers, checkout workers, care workers and of course our medical staff. Very often the most overlooked members of our society. Next time you are on the checkout – thank the staff for being on duty and allowing us to feed our families, and see the reaction you get. Who would have thought that a simple trip to the seaside, a drive out to the countryside or visit to your favourite sports arena would become such a treat (something I take for granted), but what will we give for that in a few weeks’ time?
To all our children at home, know that you are missed, as you really are! I hope you are finding the work set by your teachers accessible and that you are seeing some structure in your day. But, this is also a great opportunity to do some other things! What are you doing to help out at home? Finished your own work? Why not help your younger brother or sister with theirs, (after all you should know it all). What are you doing to help your parents, who are probably having to work from home as well, or critically, they are key workers and have to go out to work every day? Are you learning to cook, cut the lawn, wash the car, put the washing on, load and empty the dishwasher – Life skills, but skills my own teenage boys can barely manage! You play an important role in making sure your family dynamic is maintained – I know many of you can rise to the challenge.
Stay in touch with your friends and teachers, remember to complete your schoolwork in a timely manner and try something new! Above all, stay safe and listen carefully to any advice you receive.
I look forward to seeing you all again soon.