WELCOME TO OUR BLOG
12th June 2020
We are now two weeks after half term with a firm focus on getting the school ready for year 10 returning in small groups to see their teachers. The school has been rearranged, staffing considered and a huge pile of guidance sifted through so that, as a school, we can offer the very best of a bad situation for year 10. Whilst all of this is happening we have a huge amount of home learning taking place and a wider focus linked to our CARES value of self-development.
Today’s blog is entitled #Notonthejobdescription which has become the catchphrase of the week. Jobs have ranged from standing on the gate in the rain conducting temperature checks, setting up classrooms and moving lockers to allow for social distancing and even starring (in the loosest sense of the word) in a safety video! The team of staff on site have worked long hours to make sure we are ready. This has made us all think about what else is #notonthejobdescription and I would like to reflect on what this feels like for pupils. In our Hastings family we try to make it as simple as possible for pupils; come to school to be part of our community, work hard and be ambitious for yourself, take responsibility for your work and your actions, make the most of the enriching curriculum on offer and do everything you can to develop yourself further so that you are ready for life beyond Hastings. So much of this is much harder when our pupils are not in school.
- How do you feel part of a community that you never see or interact with?
- How do you keep motivated when always working alone?
- How to keep taking responsibility when the situation appears to have no end?
- How to access all the extra bits of school without being there?
- How to know the areas for development without conversation or face-to-face guidance?
I do not have the answers to all of these questions, but we look to find a path that we can follow. We are using videos, phone calls and rewards to keep in touch with our Hastings family. This has included extending what we do for parents, many of whom have been shocked to get a certificate and chocolate treat! We are encouraging pupils to reach out to each other and staff to keep up their levels of motivation. We are asking pupils to reflect on their lives and the lives of others so they keep pushing themselves, even from a distance. We are learning ways to grow as a community with wider aspirations and wider skills and hobbies and finally we are trying to give precise and informed feedback to enable pupils to keep progressing without being in school.
We are fortunate that next week sees the start of a slow and gradual return to some normality with year 10 arriving back in school, we hope that soon this will be all of us together again. Until then, most of what we are all doing is #notonthejobdescription but I am so proud of our staff, our parents, our pupils, in fact our entire Hastings family for the ways that they are doing a job that they never could have imagined at the start of 2020.
How does your garden grow?
22nd May 2020
As a child l spent many happy summers in my Grandpa’s allotment. Apart from the stinging nettles l remember fondly the hours we spent picking and shelling peas, collecting and delivering eggs and harvesting an abundance of fruit and vegetables. I like to think that l have carried on the family tradition and every summer l like to grow my own veg. The feeling of spending time outdoors and eating food straight from the garden feels just as good as it did when l was a child. However, what l didn’t appreciate then, that l do now, is the time and effort that is required to prepare the soil, the incessant weeding and watering and the constant lookout for unwanted pests. I now understand that it takes a lot of commitment for a garden to grow.
I am reminded of this for two reasons. Firstly, this week is Mental Health Awareness Week, which focuses on the power and potential of kindness. We often think of kindness as something that we do for others and can forget that, ‘Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses’ (taken from one of my favourite pages in Charlie MacKesy’s beautiful fable, ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’). For me, my little allotment is a space which allows me to take care of myself, it helps to reduce stress and allows me to focus on just one thing at a time.
Secondly, it reminds me of what happens in the classroom and around school on a daily basis that we can’t provide, in the same way, remotely. In order to know what needs weeding and watering l need to see the plants in front of me. We really miss seeing our pupils. We miss the human interaction that takes place in the classroom, the ways we can offer reassurance with a small nod or spoken words of encouragement. We miss the conversations in the corridors and on the playground. We are missing seeing those early signals which let us know when someone might be struggling or in need of some extra help. Instead, we keep doing our best and thank you for doing yours too.
Just as all too often we forget to be kind to ourselves we can also forget to appreciate these small acts of kindness. The things that, once they are not there, we find ourselves missing the most. Mrs Loxley recently shared with us an extract from a poem about appreciation, written by one of her students. She beautifully captures how appreciation can so easily pass us by but, when caught, makes all of the difference.
All that leaves me to say is that l wish you a lovely half-term. If you are spending time in the garden don’t forget to weed and water those plants and more importantly feed yourselves some kindness!
A good time to be a teacher?
8th May 2020
A member of staff this week was walking into school and someone politely said hello and ‘It’s a good time to be a teacher!’, it provoked a reaction and conversation and hopefully the person feels a little more informed but it has certainly inspired my blog this week…
I am lucky, in lots of ways really lucky. I work at an amazing school, with motivated pupils and staff that are always willing to go the extra mile. In normal times I often walk around school as I leave and tell staff that are still on-site to go home (not that they listen). Collectively we want the absolute best for all the pupils we are involved with.
So surely this is a great time to be a teacher, no lessons, no kids, sat at home relaxing? Just a really long holiday?
I hope that all of our parents (and wish the wider public) realise that is just not the case.
This week my wife has been off work, she works in the NHS as a radiotherapist and has been busy over the last few weeks, really busy. This has meant that I have been at home with my own children most of the week, easy you say? A bit of home-learning? I can sympathise with all parents trying for some kind of structure. It is hard to be helping the kids, setting lessons and ultimately with Miss Bradley trying to run a school. Online meetings started as a bit of fun but sometimes children just don’t understand please don’t disturb me I am in a meeting (my youngest has made guest appearances in several!), online lessons? Well setting work, uploading resources is fine but guiding pupils who need help or advice is so much more difficult using only a text box. This is without contacting those who are having difficulties accessing the technology, safeguarding issues or just keeping a school going trying to plan for whatever the future looks like. I have been fortunate that this week I have been able to be in school a bit more. I have felt a real sense of purpose and after several weeks of just trying to work through the issues day to day there is some planning for the future. We have plans in place for transition (new year 7 pupils look out for the email next week), the timetable and how we might support pupils when they return. We know that there might be some details on school re-opening in the coming days, we get this information at the same time as the whole of the UK, no heads up, warning or early briefing and that means you are constantly in a state of flux waiting for the next announcement.
In consideration of the wider staff of the school, we all like the communication with pupils, routine and structure and all of that is gone. Teachers are sat in front of screens not pupils, responding to messages not questions and constantly worrying about the young people that they have nurtured and worked with over sometime many years. Our student support team are on the phone not seeing the pupils in person, causing constant worry.
So a good time to be a teacher? No
A good time to be a teacher will be when we come out of the other side of this virus. Seeing our classes again, being in a full classroom, sharing the successes of all pupils and ultimately for me those first assemblies when I know that everyone has returned safely and our Hastings family is back together again. We know that this might take a long time but we have to be patient, follow the advice and ultimately we will return to a time when it is good to be a teacher.
I hope everyone has a safe weekend with time to reflect on both VE day and the journey we are on,
24th April 2020
Imagine that every morning we woke up to find that £86,400 had been deposited into our bank account. The only catch is that we have to spend it all in a day and that it cannot be carried forward to the next. What would you do? How would you spend it? At such a time of uncertainty would we spend it differently or more wisely? It would be nice to think so.
This scenario is one that we would normally be posing to our pupils at this time of year when we are asking them to think about how they spend their time; how do they make the most of what they are given in order to enrich their lives beyond the classroom? Every day we start with 86,400 seconds. These are seconds that we only get one chance to spend and how we choose to spend them can truly enrich or bankrupt our lives. At this time, this has never seemed more relevant. It is evident that many of us are choosing more wisely. We are enriching our lives in ways that we never had, or made time for, before. Whether this be learning something new, finally finishing that project, reading, exercising, supporting and caring for others or broadening our interests. We are very proud of so many of our pupils who have risen to these new challenges and are trying out new things. Many of whom have been nominated by one of their teachers for our Hot Chocolate Friday. Here are just a few:
- Finley Bird in year 7 who has been sending Mrs Taylor photos of his cooking – MasterChef watch out!
- Joseph Edwards in Year 10 for winning Mrs Downie’s Grammar Home Fitness Quiz. He got 80% which was the top score.
- Kian Todd and Lani Vanes for continuing to work towards achieving their Duke of Edinburgh Awards from home.
- Harrison Gent in year 7 who looked up some French-speaking footballers and taught his Nan and Grandad some French.
- Ben Collins in year 8 who has done lots of research including looking up French artists and singing happy birthday in French to his sister.
- Finlay Hughes who has made a Burbage Football Club postcard to help his elderly neighbours and has shared this with the rest of his team.
- Mrs Cook and Mrs King who have been making ear mask protectors and visors for the NHS.
It is so great to hear of the so many amazing ways in which our Hastings Family are spending their time. We know that as time passes, this will pass too. We cannot wait for the day that we welcome our pupils and staff back to school and start to adapt to our new normal. Amidst all of this it would be nice to think that we re-emerge with a greater appreciation of time and how we choose to spend it; a sentiment that is beautifully portrayed in this poem by Kathleen O’Meara.
The Shoots of Spring
4th April 2020
This is the strangest end of term that I have ever been involved in, normally people are excited for a couple of weeks of and maybe a couple of days away to rest and relax before the final push until the end of the school year. This year though everything is a bit different and school is not closing over the holidays as we look to support parents who are on the front line fighting this virus. A lot has been said about how as a school we are changing the way we work in these extraordinary times so my blog today is going to take a different look and tell you about the positive things that are going on in the background, the shoots of spring growing in the background for when we are all together again.
We have this week donated lots of PPE equipment to the Leicester Royal Infirmary, this included 200 pairs of safety googles and 8 boxes of gloves. We worried that we were just wasting their time but the letter that we got in response shows how grateful they were.
We are trying to keep things as normal as possible for the pupils so in the last two weeks this has involved developing a Hasting YouTube channel and Miss Bradley and myself showcasing our (lack of) ICT skills we a weekly assembly.
They can be found here, I promise that as we learn these will become much more professional and slick! Maybe we will be the next YouTube sensations, Joe wicks watch out!
Home delivery hot chocolate has also been a hit with over 25 certificate and chocolate deliveries in the last two weeks for pupil who are showing commendable effort and responsibility buy getting involved with their online learning, completing work, asking questions and responding to feedback!
Finally to tie in with the green shoots of spring we have been planting trees. Throughout this year we have been working closely with a team at Enstruct, they have been in school every Thursday all year to transform some of our neglected spaces into a community garden. The progress they have made is amazing and we will be hosting a grand opening in September for everyone in the local community to see the work that has been done and also enable the pupils involved to showcase their work. For a something like this though you have to prepare well in advance, you have to make the ground fertile, remove weeds and grow your little seedlings into the fruit and vegetable producing plants that are planned. This takes time, planning and a lot of hard work along the way. This week we were at the tree planting stage and although pupils were not in school a couple of pupils and staff planted nearly 200 trees over the week (and there will be some more next week as well with thanks to the Woodland Trust for supplying the trees!). These tree saplings are showing the first signs of spring, this process is exactly the same in school.
We prepare well for our new year 7 intake who are like the seedlings, young, eager to learn but also scared about their first weeks in a new school and community. We nurture them through the school, teaching them new things and helping them grow into the strong, resilient, community focussed pupils that walk out of the gate at the end of year 11. Throughout this time there are challenges and these times are just another challenge, we will come through it and when we get back together we will be stronger for it. A year ago we would never have considered a situation like this but we planned and have adapted as we get to Easter hopefully across the country and world we will start to see the first shoots of spring as we are seeing at Hastings and by following the guidance we will all be back together soon. We are already planning for the school re-opening and the adaptations that will need to be made going forwards, how will we assess what pupils know? How can we adapt our schemes of work so that no pupil is disadvantaged? We are immensely proud of our pupils for their resilience and taking responsibility at these times, proud of our staff for adapting the way they work and also being so keen to be in work when asked supporting those crucial key workers and we are thankful to all our parents for what they are doing at home.
I wish everyone a restful Easter break, look after yourselves and stay safe, everyday that passes is a day closer to our community being back together.
Mr S Shipman