Looking at the past 15 months or so, have you ever experienced a period like this in education?
I have been teaching for over 20 years and have never lived through period like this in education. It has been an incredibly challenging time for schools, families and communities. We have seen our parents, teachers and pupils demonstrate such resilience and determination to make things happen and think differently to make this a valuable, impactful and progressive year. In addition, it has been a reminder that we are not alone. We have a strong sense of unity within the Oak- Tree Group and no challenge is too great.
How did Normanhurst School cope with the lockdowns?
I am incredibly proud of the Normanhurst community. There is a strong feeling and culture that we can do anything we put our minds to. I am amazed at how resourceful, passionate and resilient a school community we have been, still creating ways to enrich and support the pupils’ education. We offered a timetable of Zoom lessons, academic and pastoral tutorials and assemblies, as well opportunities to exercise, be creative and socialise with peers and adults. It was fantastic to see all of our children doing what they could to keep going and do as well as possible given the extraordinary circumstances.
How did your teachers cope with working from home?
The teachers and support staff have been fantastic, still full of energy and passionate for learning. Teachers have adapted their lessons to ensure pupils across the age range receive lessons which are exciting and filled with stretch and challenge tasks that made for excellent engagement from pupils. It has shown how resourceful we can all be from home, celebrating annual events, providing pastoral and academic support and even providing mental health walks through this period. Teaching assistants continued to provide support in class and additional sessions were offered to that ensure pupils were reading and developing their understanding and comprehension. I am incredibly proud of the staff who have worked tirelessly to make every day count and who have made this a positive successful period, full of memories.
Did your pupils surprise you in any way?
I am always surprised at how pupils cope with change. Their honesty and determination to succeed is always so refreshing. It has also enabled us to foster and nurture our pupils to be more independent. Moreover, it is wonderful that even during the pandemic our pupils continued to think of others, whether through fundraising for the local food bank, collecting Easter eggs for a local domestic violence refuge or creating an online read video for the adults at the local Spinney care home. Ultimately, we want all our pupils to be good thoughtful citizens, and they prove that they are well on their way to achieving this with our support. And of course we are always surprised to see how much our pupils have missed the school when they have been away for a long time.
What’s the greatest thing about having everyone back at school?
There is nothing more exciting that hearing the buzz and energy of staff and pupils being in school. The conversations from staff to pupils, parents to staff and pupil to pupil, enriching and diverse. I often walk around school and pop into lessons and I thrive on this energy, it’s pretty special and difficult to describe. Everyone was pleased to return to school; careful consideration and attention was given to re-establish positive learning habits, pupils played together in their bubbles like they had never been away, and the way in which they threw themselves back into classroom routines was outstanding. Ultimately, the best thing about a school is the students, and we have some pretty amazing ones!
What are you hopes for the rest of 2021?
Our hopes for the rest of this academic year are for the entire community to be safe, healthy and happy. We are very lucky to have such supportive parents, and passionate hard working teachers and support staff, who really care about the pupils. We know that whatever life throws at us we will be able to make it through together.