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An Unprecedented Situation

“Do not give in to the the minor irritations of War”. This piece of advice was given by the founders of St Christopher’s School in February 1941. The two lady founders; Miss Critchell-Moody and Miss Angus Paterson had a steep learning curve when they found themselves facing the task of running our school in the middle of the 2nd World War.  Finding themselves in an unprecedented situation suddenly has a new meaning for the current Head of St Christopher’s!  Their solution was to roll up their sleeves and start making decisions based on a mixture of Government advice, common sense and the need to do ‘something’. One of my favourite artefacts here at school is the ‘Invasion Notice’ also written in February 1941 announcing that: “Should the threat of invasion materialise the school will close for one week”.

The act of making decisions based on the unknown is something that I have now experienced and it makes me look back at my predecessors with even greater admiration. The coronavirus pandemic has caused devastation worldwide. We have been charged with making sense of this new threat and for the first time in living memory the Government closed schools across the country on 20th March 2020 with little idea of when and how they would open again.

We have heard reference to the ‘war spirit’ time and again during lockdown and in the midst of stories of sadness came stories of great kindness as communities began to help each other responding to this national crisis. When the Government gave permission to schools to reopen on 1st June, in the spirit of its ancestors, St Christopher’s was ready. Staff who were only part time stepped up to full time work to cover the additional duties necessitated by a new Pod System. Staff who joined the country in their fear of this deadly virus found their courage and came in to work determined to make a success of the new system. And so we opened.

As always it was the children who recharged our batteries and reignited our self belief, for as they came rushing back into school seamlessly following new routines, the energy and spirit flooded back in to the school. Happiness filled the building and both adults and children were able to park their anxiety and revisit the thrill of being reunited, ready to learn. We have indeed learnt from each other. The children have organically blossomed from their time at home but are visibly delighted to be back in the harmonious company of their friends and teachers.

So here we are, back where we all belong, sharing a determination to make a happy success of the last weeks of an academic year that will go down in history. I tried so hard not to ‘give in to the minor irritations of war’ and remembering that phrase gave me the confidence to believe in another well known saying; ‘this too shall pass’. When it does I will remember to take time to appreciate the little things in life for I have had a sharp reminder that it’s the little things that make life big.

Annie Thackray