This has been a truly unprecedented year for our Trust, our schools and for education all over the world. No one could not have predicted the huge challenges and unusual circumstances that we have had to face throughout the past nine months, which is why many of us are welcoming the end of a chaotic year with open arms. However, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the wonderful achievements that have been made in 2020, of which there are many.
Making Fast Adaptations
It fills me with a great sense of pride that all our schools have adapted so effectively throughout the year. With each month seeming to bring new guidance and safety advice, our schools have jumped through hoops to ensure that they met all the necessary requirements.
A year ago, it would have been hard to imagine a classroom full of two metre spaced desks, restricted bubble groups, strict hand-washing routines and staggered lunchtimes. This has now become the new normal and this year has really shown the true resilience of our staff and pupils.
I know that for our teachers, the announcement of school closures in March caused a lot of stress and heartache. Many of the children were directed to learn from home, which required an adjustment of epic proportions. Curriculums required adaptation to suit online learning, systems needed to be created to ensure that learning continued at home and the biggest change required pupils to suddenly understand that their home was now their school.
Home school itself presented many challenges. Would the children have access to a device? Were they able to print work sheets? Would they struggle to hold their attention for learning in the home environment? This process presented many unknowns, but together the staff and pupils worked hard to make the home learning period as successful as possible.
Sharing, Connecting and Communicating
Although remote learning was new to most of our schools, being forced to adapt quickly has led to some fantastic technological learning outcomes. We now know that, should the situation call for it again, most children can access learning from wherever they are. Work can be distributed by teachers remotely and work can be submitted online. It may not be a perfect system just yet, but we now know what is possible and where we can improve.
As a Trust, we have made it a key priority that no school leaders feel as though they are struggling through the pandemic alone. We have utilised video calling to check in with our leaders regularly and created a group chat where leaders provide guidance and advice to each other through this difficult time. It has helped to cement the Vine school leaders as a team and has strengthened the Vine family throughout the year.
We have also been missing our collective worship, as this is such a huge part of life in a Church of England school. Although we cannot gather and join in prayer and celebration together, our heads have been taking worship online instead. Through Teams, Zoom, YouTube and other online platforms, our school communities have still been able to enjoy worship and have not had to miss out.
Going the Extra Mile
Staff throughout the Trust have gone the extra mile this year to ensure that pupils are safe in the school environment, supported both at home and in school and continuing to learn, despite many being at home for four months.
Throughout the year I have heard many wonderful stories of schools going above and beyond to ensure education could continue. I know that there must be many more stories that I have not heard, but here are just a few that truly made me proud of our Trust:
Great Clacton Junior School ensured that every child that needed food received their food package every day – no matter what. The head teacher even rode her bike to individual houses to make sure the food arrived.
At St James’ Primary School in Harlow the school leaders helped teachers create a range of online learning overnight when their positive cases became difficult to manage. Paper copies of work were sent out where children did not have access to computers.
At Rivenhall the head teacher was in class supporting individual children when they became short of support staff. Rather than send children home or leave children with additional needs without support, the head took on this role herself.
In St Margaret’s Bowers Gifford, cases rose rapidly, and the school found themselves with no kitchen staff or cleaners. The head and assistant head cooked and served the meals to ensure that the children were fed a hot dinner. They also cleaned the school building to keep everyone safe.
Every school, every staff member and the team at Vine Schools Trust have worked together to make this year a success despite the pandemic and I cannot thank you all enough for your exceptional hard work.
I hope that 2021 will see us return to some semblance of normalcy, but I know that the Vine Schools Trust family will come together to make next year a success no matter what.
‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit’
© The Diocese of Chelmsford Vine Schools Trust 2020 a company limited by guarantee and registered in England. No 8709542.
Registered address: The Diocese of Chelmsford Vine Schools Trust, Diocesan Offices, 53, New Street, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1AT.