Just over a year ago, COVID-19 was officially recognised as a pandemic by the WHO. A little over a week later LECA, along with all other schools nationally, closed its doors for the rest of the academic year. Then, summer came and life went back to normal - for a while. We ate out to help out and mixed in groups of 6; we looked forward to a normal Christmas. I could go on but you all know the rest. Finally, though, we welcomed our students back gradually this week, after a false start in September, and what a fantastic week it was.
It was not without it's challenges though! By the end of the week, our amazing testing team, together with staff from Highfields, had conducted hundreds of tests and the students were back in classes. Another incredible team effort. The next challenge was to deal with the increased amount of staff being ordered to shield. For this we needed our staff at home to be 'beamed' into classrooms from home and teach as if they were in the classroom. After a couple of hitches, this became the norm for the week and our students, supervised by teachers in schools, were taught by their regular teacher. How far we have come in just a few months but now the situation was reversed; the teachers were at home and the students were in school! But it worked and it worked well. It just goes to show what a little innovation and creativity can do when you have the technology to do it. Behind the scenes, it was a mammoth organisational task only made possible by our brilliant cover manager, Bev Vasey, and our brilliant IT Technician, Daryl Shaw. On top of that, the teachers, already busy beyond belief, stepped into other classrooms to supervise and will be doing the same for the rest of the term. I am immensely proud and privileged to be leading them.
So what of the students. What struck me most (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) was their high spirits. They looked happy to be back, around their friends and their teachers. They looked ready to learn and re-start their journey. What they didn't look was 'lost'. I've said this before and it's worth repeating - this generation is not lost. They are on a different path, that is for sure - and we must adapt and help as much as we can - but they are not lost. Our job is to first and foremost look after their wellbeing and if we get that right they will be well-equipped to succeed in whatever they do. We need to create the conditions for success and our determined, resilient students will follow us and do their best. If they do that, they won't go too far wrong.
This week we move closer to operating more normally. By midday this Wednesday, all of our testing will be complete and it will be over to students to test at home from that point on. Having done some in school, we hope this won't be too arduous and students and parents just have to follow clear instructions to complete the whole process and register the result online. More help will follow from LECA but hopefully it will be straightforward for all of you. Not only this, but with the tests completed in school, the students' lessons will go uninterrupted for the last 7 days of term and we can properly begin the work of addressing gaps in knowledge.
Finally, we await further guidance for how we will operate after Easter. We're aware that some schools are not 'bubbling' students but we have taken a cautious approach and we very much hope to return to normal in a few weeks time, in line with the Prime Minister's roadmap for re-opening the country. We will, of course, be guided by the numbers but we hope the summer term will be a normal summer term with all the events and sports that we would normally run. As soon as the decision has been made on this, we will write to you but I hope you understand that for now we have to respect the lockdown and continue with the safety measures we have in place. We are nearly at the end and the prize is in sight and we thank you for all the encouraging messages and calls we've had from our parents which have genuinely kept us going in this long journey.