Dear Parents and Carers
Hope you’re keeping well.
As we await an announcement from central government on the re-opening and easing the lockdown of schools, this week gives us cause to stop and look back on a remarkable and humbling time in our history: the day the lights came on after six years of darkness. Mr Farley has prepared a special feature for Friday’s 75th Anniversary VE Commemoration. On the 8th May 1945, newspapers were once again allowed to publish weather forecasts- hitherto prohibited in case the information was used by the enemy.
It’s welcome that the weather forecast for this Friday is good (light to moderate winds, and temperatures near average or slightly above, allowing pleasant sunny and bright spells) as our History Department will be helping deliver ‘VE Day’ parcels to the WW2 generation in the local community. These will include questions and messages from USH students about WW2.
The special televised performance of ‘We’ll Meet Again’ at the Royal Albert Hall will doubtless have particular poignancy. I’ll definitely be tuning-in (showing my age).
School will be closed to all students on Friday for the Bank
Holiday and will re-open to registered key worker children again on Monday.
USH Commemorates VE Day 75
Looking through our school logbook, it simply says. ‘May 8-9, 1945: School closed for these two days, “V-E” holiday.’ On the 11 May, the school returned for an assembly in the ‘afternoon of both departments to celebrate victory (E)’. I was probably hoping for too much for records in a logbook to capture the true significance of what VE Day meant to people in 1945, but turning back through the pages you get an idea of the impact the war had on the school and the community. On August 29, 1939 it states, ‘normal school re-opened today, following Evacuation Rehearsal on Monday’ and on 2 September the ‘school evacuated to Bournemouth.’ For those who remained, on March 12 1941, the school was closed ‘owing to UXB in King Edward avenue’ and on the 19th, ‘school reopened today, bomb having been removed.’ Heavy nights of bombing are a regular occurrence and on August 27, 1941 ‘Anderson shelters in the near neighbourhood now have to be used during “alerts”. The records also give an insight into how the school came together to support the local community; ‘July 18, 1941: Headmaster handed a cheque to the Mayor for the “Bombed areas fund” N.B. the combined departments of this school, aiming at £100 raised £703 in savings this week’.
When we started planning our VE Day commemorations 75 years on with Vicki Stacey, Madge Heath and Liz Webb from the Shirley Local History Group we wanted to give students the opportunity to find out about the diverse and substantial role people from Shirley played during the Second World War and receive training in how to use oral history techniques to interview these people in the community to record their memories. The outcome of these sessions was going to be the students sharing their recorded testimonies in an exhibition to be presented in the VE Day events, which were due to take place during the 8th and 9th of May. It all started well with Vicki, Madge and Liz introducing students to a range of different sources including oral histories, bombing maps, photographs, war damage registers and the 1939 register, where students were able find out about how the war affected the people who lived in the houses where they now live today. Hearing fascinating stories about some of the local buildings – now Pets at Home, Halfords and the Range - being requisitioned for making Spitfire parts or about barrage balloons in St James Park hit home just how local and important this period of History is to our community. Then, full of questions to ask, the club unfortunately came to a sudden halt and we all went into lockdown.
Despite the fact that we were no longer able to commemorate VE Day as we had planned, the need to create these inter-generational links between our students and the Second World War generation arguably became even more important – to show this generation that we are thinking of them during this period of self-isolation and for the students to be able to hear their memories of a time when the local community had to stand together through the biggest national and global crisis. To look back and commemorate their stories of resilience, togetherness and humour can help us to reflect on the similar stories of kindness and community that are taking place today, despite the personal sacrifices that we are all having to make.
Therefore, Jacob M, Zameer A, Ruby H, Anna S and Ben D have written messages and created questions on behalf of USH to be included in ‘VE Day parcels’ created by the Local History Group. USH will be helping to deliver these parcels on Friday to around 60 people in Shirley who lived during the war. We will look to share their answers in an exhibition at a later date, possible VJ Day on the 15th August.
For Friday, tutors will be sharing resources on Google Classrooms for students to access to find out more about the significance of VE Day and a questionnaire to help students interview anyone in their families who were alive during this time. Please share these if you are able to interview anyone.
Mr Farley, Subject Lead of History
Carry on Reading with US(H)
During school closure we have been working hard behind the scenes to try to ensure that students still have access to books. Over the past two weeks, we have sent out free books to students with food packages and with work packs, and we will continue to do this in the coming weeks.
For those students with online access, we have signed up to two ebook platforms. The first of these is the Renaissance Place myOn ebook platform, which includes thousands of non-fiction and shorter fiction titles, all of which have Accelerated Reader quizzes. These are ideal for students in Years 7 and 8 who want to carry on reading and taking quizzes while they are at home.
If you need any more help or information, please contact the school Librarian Rosina.Mount@ushschool.org