OPINION – Gary Griffin: We adapted to give best experience during this crisis

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OPINION – Gary Griffin: We adapted to give best experience during this crisis

Immanuel's Head master reflects on how his school changed during lockdown to ensure education could continue

Immanuel College
Immanuel College

This year we faced the toughest challenge ever experienced in my many years of teaching and leadership.

The realisation that schools were actually closing was a shock to us all, but I am very proud of how we pulled together to ensure that Immanuel College could continue to operate at maximum capacity, albeit remotely.

The tremendous hard work and commitment of our staff meant that throughout the Shavuot term, we were able remotely, (and in the case of our Prep School, in person) to offer not only all of our academic curriculum, but also a number of co-curricular activities, as well as extensive pastoral care and Jewish life and learning opportunities. This gave our pupils and their parents the best experience possible during this pandemic crisis.

We adjusted (not without some learning curves!) to remote end-of-year examinations, assemblies, parents’ evenings feedback and regular communication through email, chat and newsletters and even weekly online staff coffee mornings.

Our Year 11s impressed us with their resilience to the news of the cancellation of GCSEs and their enthusiasm and commitment at adapting to beginning their A-levels (and Extended Project Qualification) early, and our Year 13s graciously appreciated the material given to help them with the next stage of their different educational journeys.

Our staff were magnificent in adjusting to new circumstances, learning new skills and showing a true commitment to their pupils.

Our pupils, and not forgetting their parents, were similarly outstanding, adapting and showing commitment to the online learning provision offered; developing resilience in coping with disappointments of the cancellation of public examinations that had been worked so hard for and the cancellation of trips that had been eagerly anticipated by pupils and skilfully planned for by staff.

Pupils and their families harnessed their creativity in new hobbies and innovative ways to help the community, with incredible social action including (but not limited to) baking for the NHS, remotely running youth groups, organising charity toy drives and making personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline NHS workers, as well as learning to help out more at home and interact with family members, including grandparents and siblings.

This strength of character shown by both staff and pupils will be vital to what will be a challenging year ahead, as we continue to adapt to the new normal at school and in life in general.

Having had the experience of all our Prep School children on site, we have seen the challenges we will be facing for the whole college in September and created solutions to overcome these. Although many activities will continue to take place, albeit with adjustments to the “new normal”, our weekly whole-school assembly will now only be possible via live stream, as we did from home last term, so this is what we will do, using skills and ideas learnt from home to overcome challenges on site.

Similarly, celebrating the chagim in school will be adjusted to ensure social distancing is maintained.

We will make this happen!

As our provision of online learning opportunities has extensively developed over the past months, if we have to face a second lockdown, we will be ready to respond to the needs of remote provision relatively easily.

We cannot wait to be back attending school, interacting in person rather than through a screen and resuming something relating to “normal”.

Of course, this will not be easy and it has required enormous amounts of effort from staff and governors over the school holidays, but I have every confidence that Immanuel College will rise to this new challenge and continue to provide academic excellence, pastoral expertise and an inspiring Jewish education – as always.

  • Gary Griffin, Head master, Immanuel

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