This unusual time

18 March 2020

I want to thank our families for their understanding at this unusual time.

I’m writing this post because there are some things I cannot write in a formal letter or say directly to you because we are spread apart. I profoundly feel that this country and this city does not need forced isolation at this moment in time, though as educators we recognise the life-saving reasons why it is essential. This is serious.

Each day, my team and I await Boris’s news updates and we look forward to the time when education gets centre stage. The distinct feeling (day-by-day) is that schools will to find their individual level of operational function- relying on ‘Category C’ people to keep things moving. And most importantly, supporting our NHS.

At USH we have taken a measured and cautious approach to this most-serious of matters and the staff remaining in school are finding new skills to lead and manage through this period. I have never seen the word ‘unprecedented’ used so often; though it’s not quite true- Britain has survived something like this before but perhaps in our contemporary arrogance, we feel collectively unprepared hence the importance of naming it as unique, unmatched….extraordinary.

It’s times like these when schools prove why we exist. Of course, we exist to keep children focussed on important studies and exams and whilst we await a decision on summer exam arrangements (get a move on exam boards), our Year 11s are working valiantly. But we also exist to serve the community, to protect and to comfort. This week staff have drawn deep on their moral purpose to cover for colleagues and keep things running- albeit on a reduced capacity. The level of regard my staff have for each other and for students is truly humbling.

Given that children are in a ‘low risk’ category and need to be educated and cared for during the day, schools are balancing their staffing with what (hopefully) most would agree is fair and practical access to learning- be that at home or in school.

The choices we have made in conjunction with governors at USH are designed to protect our people- looking to a time when we can return to business as usual, though when that is we are currently unsure. We don’t yet know what so many of the established routines and events will look like for the rest of the academic year. That said, planning is well underway for different eventualities in the medium term and I have a great leadership team thinking behind the scenes. We are all working to put the children first.

It’s worth remembering that USH is not just a physical place- it’s something held in mind too…it’s a family. We want people to know we are still here. And you are not alone.