Originally published Autumn 2020, by Lucy Horne Headteacher
OUR school, like many other places, has looked very different over the last few months. In March and April we were open for the children of Key Worker families and continued to provide online learning for those children who were at home. Since June, we have had children from Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in school. This made the school feel far more like a proper school with the sound of children running, laughing and chattering.
In July, we then invited Year 5 to join the rest of the classes. In total, we now have over 100 children in school, all in their own ‘Bubble’ of no more than 15. The rest of the school have been continuing their learning via their online Google Classrooms with work set by the class teacher each week.
We have tried to keep school looking and feeing as close to the ‘usual’ school day as we can and, as such, have been offering Music lessons, time in the Forest School area, time in the allotment and even having a Sports Day, all within ‘bubbles’.
Children and parents have soon become used to the new routines. Each ‘bubble’ arriving at a slightly different time, each having their own entrance and all following the one way system for pick up and drop off times.
The children have been using the outdoor space as much as possible.
Year 1 spent time in our allotment area pond dipping. They helped to clear the pond and spot the fish, they pond dipped for water insects and used clip boards to go on a mini beast hunt.
Each year group has had the opportunity to take part in javelin, hurdles, egg and spoon, running and sack races. The annual sports day did not take place but the children still had the opportunity to take part in the races in a mini ‘bubble’ sports day, each representing their House team.
Year 6 spent some time in the allotment, harvesting crops – onions and wild garlic and weeding the area. They have been watering the allotment and checking on the marrows growing and black currants that are almost ready to be picked and made into jam in the Autumn Term. Our friendly neighbour, Len, helps maintain the allotment too. For which we are extremely grateful.
The lime trees that we are custodians for until they are strong enough to be transferred to Mill Road, are growing well. The children have been watering them daily and have a strong sense of responsibility to ensure the fifteen tree saplings are well cared for.
Weekly music lessons with our Music teacher Mrs Morris, have been filling the school with sound. Each ‘bubble’ has their own Music lesson slot and have been performing using instruments and percussion. Year 6 performed a wonderful piece as part of their end of term liturgy using glockenspiels. We also had our Year 6 musicians leading the music in the liturgy with Alice playing piano accompaniment and our guitarists playing the music for the hymns. We have a great many accomplished musicians in our school.
As the Corpus Christi Carpet of Flowers could not take place this year, as a school, we wanted to celebrate the feast day. Every child who was in school that week in June made a paper flower and the Year 6 children assembled the paper flowers to create a chalice and host. This was blessed in school by Canon David and was positioned at the front of the school for parents to see and to bear witness of Christ. The chalice and host made from flowers was then taken to the Cathedral and placed in front of the altar whilst Bishop Richard celebrated mass via live streaming.
Pastor Steve was able to join Year 6 in their final week and deliver a final assembly to them before they leave St Philip’s. For these children, Pastor Steve has been a regular figure of prayer who comes in and talks about the Word of God with them. Thank you to him for this and for the times throughout the year that he has been a regular visitor to our school.
For Year 6, it is a strange time for them to be in school. They have not had their end of term production, their SATs breakfast, their last Whole School Sports Day or their Leavers Mass in the Cathedral. They have however, been able to share the last few weeks together in school and have celebrated leaving primary school with a Liturgy in the Cathedral with one invited guest, signing their school shirts (in a distanced, structured way) and have recorded some of their favourite songs using instruments and new lyrics. They received their Leavers hoodies too. They were also able to spend time with their Faith Buddies (Reception Class) and wrote beautiful prayer cards and memory gifts for them. There was no trip to the Lido after school on the last day for Year 6. Instead, it was a teary farewell at the school gate and then on to celebrate elsewhere after school. We know all the children are well equipped to start their Secondary school adventure with all the social and academics skills they need in order to thrive, wherever they go. We hope they will remain in touch and keep us updated with their progress.
The induction process for our new Reception Class, joining us in September, has taken a different format this year. We have set up an online portal for parents, children and the school staff to pass information to each other. The usual visit to the classroom before the start of term has had to be done via videos rather than physical sessions and questions children may want to know about, have had to be done via conferencing. We very much look forward to welcoming many new families (and existing ones) into our school community.
Preparations for September return are well under way. The updating of Risk Assessments for cleaning and for ‘zoned playtimes’, staggered lunchtimes, eating outside, school start and end times, the limiting of non-essential visitors into the building… the list goes on. The new rules will be adhered to and become the new ‘norm’ but the heart of our community as a safe and secure environment where all children are nurtured and loved, has and will continue to, remain the same.