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A Most Unusual Year

The news of the day tells us that it has officially been a whole year since the country was asked to stay at home as we entered our first period of national lockdown. What a year. And yet for me the world did not change as radically as it did for others as I was immediately declared to be a key worker.  Did any of us know what a ‘key worker’ was over a year ago when days and months were ‘normal’ and we all followed our busy calendars without question?  I doubt it, and if we did we didn’t stop to dwell on what such a description actually meant.

For me it has meant that I have not experienced the actual implications of a full lockdown. On March 23rd 2020 everyone was asked to stay inside and business were asked to stop trading With immediate effect EXCEPT schools who were charged by the Government to remain open for the care of children of other key workers and we have remained open ever since.  Asking Staff who had just watched the news and been made aware of the very real dangers of leaving your house and congregating in a public place, to leave their house and come to work in a congregated place is quite a challenge. I have had to do it twice. On January 2021 when a grim faced Prime Minister took to the screen to tell us of a dangerous and exponential rise in cases of coronavirus, I had a staff meeting the following day with a bewildered and frightened workforce to explain why, once again, they needed to override the lockdown and come in to work as usual.
I am one of the lucky Headteachers. My staff said ‘yes’. I have not needed time to realise how brave and committed they were, I knew it at once. I felt their fear and I felt their confusion as both experts and fear mongers took to the news to highlight the dangers of mixing in public, whilst we tried to remain calm and practical with an important job to do.

Could we remain 2m apart from our tiny pupils? No. The children were experiencing their world shake and disrupt with beloved family members suddenly excluded from their homes. In shops where people used to smile and chat to young children, grim faced members of the public with half their faces concealed by a mask, held back, technically allowing a healthy space but imagine what a 3 year old made of that? So no, it was conceded that a 2m gap was not realistic with such young pupils and so we opted for a Pod system where the day was punctuated by lengthy hand washing and temperatures were taken but hugs and hand holding within each Pod were allowed.

So here we are one year on. I feel lucky to have been spared the loneliness that others in lockdown have experienced. Human beings are social creatures and although I have seen no friends and missed family members, I have been hugely entertained by a school full of children. We were delighted to be back to full capacity on 8th March and celebrated accordingly. The children belong in school and are incredibly happy to be back.
Slowly but surely we are starting to dip into the exciting curriculum extras that we are famous for. Last week we watched the miracle of life as eggs hatched in front of our delighted eyes and this week we had an African Drumming Workshop which filled the school with rhythmic beats. Next week we have an Easter Egg hunt and Pod Discos. We are not just ‘back’ we are slowly returning to the thrill of the adventure of the ‘old days’ and it is hard to imagine that many of the rest of the population are still experiencing lockdown restrictions. We might not have benefitted from the lockdown safety experiences of those at home but the courage and resilience of the Staff has enabled us to benefit from so much more for when you are working with young children the infectious issues to focus upon are laughter and positivity and the earnest belief that normality will return, and soon.

Annie Thackray