In our latest blog, Jacqui Cornell, Headteacher, explains why the latest lockdown will not impact the level of support available or student outcomes achievable at SGGS.
We were all excited for the return to school at the start of September and understand there will be disappointment now that a return to virtual learning is required for most. There have been some exceptional moments during the past half-term despite the restrictions we faced and I am very proud of the efforts made by all students and staff to ensure our school has remained a safe and secure environment. Our site team went above and beyond to make this possible and we are all very thankful that we were able to enjoy the House Festival and other Christmas-themed activities before the latest lockdown measures were introduced.
We have experience on our side
Reflecting on the instruction to close back in March 2020 compared to now, we are far better prepared and know what to expect. That said, our response last year was extremely successful and our students adapted brilliantly when lessons moved to a world of virtual learning. Our teachers had to innovate almost everything about their roles and have now gained strong experience in communicating with classes online. We have continued to innovate and live lessons with interaction between staff and students are now able to replicate education in the classroom even better than before. Making use of the advances in MS Teams has seen the addition of breakout rooms and live online marking for some assignments; with more developments to come as time progresses. Our students have yet again proven their resilience and they will adjust just as successfully this time around. Our Bubble Tutor Groups and House system remains in place and will continue to help students draw inspiration from each other.
The investment we made in a new IT infrastructure and kit last year enabled us to transition to virtual classes with relative ease and we continue to benefit from this now. Any teething issues and experimental ideas from last year have been replaced with proven and refined methods, which have significantly reduced an already minimal level of disruption. Everyone has a better understanding of how the virtual environment works this year, so we are including more assemblies, running our usual admission programme and developing student leadership recruitment online. Staff have planned lessons for remote learning during the start of term and will continue with these operations for the foreseeable future. This online programme is being set to all students, including those who must still attend school due to their circumstances. This will ensure continuity and parity in the experience for all.
It is important to underline that schools, colleges and other educational establishments remain safe places for children. For vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, the system of protective measures we have implemented means that any risks are well-managed and controlled.
Our standards have never faltered
I understand the frustration of students who face being unable to showcase their learning through formal exams once more this year. But the hard work and effort they have shown throughout their time at our school will not be hindered by COVID-19. Despite all the upheaval seen last year, 23% of our current Year 13 secured interviews at Oxford University or Cambridge University.
This success does not belong to a small number of departments, with students securing interviews for subjects as varied as Chemistry, Biochemistry, English, Art History, History, Philosophy and French, German, Computer Science and Mathematics, Mathematics, Archaeology, Political Sciences, History and Modern Languages, Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Modern Languages, Natural Sciences and Politics. This is indicative of the breadth of excellent learning opportunities that remain available for students throughout our school. The doors to success remain open, therefore students must remain focused on their courses and continue to apply themselves to their studies; the principle of doing so will still produce the same rewards as if these latest developments had been avoided.
Our capacity to adapt to whatever the world throws at us is immense and we have proved that in abundance. Each week brings another set of challenges to test our skills of leadership, empathy and communication, but we continue to make it through and succeed at the highest level. It is okay to feel disappointed and sad from time to time and we are all looking forward to physically bringing our community back together once again. But for now, let us support and care for each other at safe distance, recognise that this will not last forever and trust that together we will work towards a bright, happy and successful future.