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Esher Church of England High School

Esher Church of England High School

Esher Learning Trust

Mr Boddington's Blog

Love in a time of Corona - June 2020

(a nod to Gabriel Garcia Marquez & Matt from Absolute Radio) 

We are living through fascinating times.  The challenge for schools has been intense and fluid.  The initial implementation felt rushed and concerning, we then settled down into a time of steady provision and now are preparing to re-open the school as we look to the future. 

As a result of this rapidly shifting situation writing my views has proved difficult as the demands have been high and the picture keeps changing. 

Our schools thrive on face-to-face relationships; the greeting in the morning from a tutor, the constant feedback, probing, supporting, endorsing during a lesson, the joy of the corridor conversation and the buzz of the school dining room.  Occasionally, the redirecting and gentle enforcing of a boundary.  All of this builds and maintains the relationship that we adults and the students need and this has of course been totally absent for the last few months. 

One aspect we have considered is an old US military acronym of VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous challenges that we face.  The recent situation has been all of these and at a level rarely seen for anyone.  A senior fellow at Harvard Business School described the leadership needed in these situations as being one with Vision, Understanding, Courage and Adaptability, and this is what we have sought in the school. 

I have been delighted with the support from all our parents who have been faced with the enormous challenge of home schooling.  We have listened to them, the students and staff at each stage and adjusted our provision wherever we reasonably can.  The pastoral care of students is a massive concern and regular calls home from the pastoral team have sought to ameliorate this, but it is never enough. 

All of this has been missing from the national picture where we face a lack of direction and clear tension between the government and the unions.  Decisions from the start have been published to the media before being communicated to school leaders, and the detail of any statement is often days before being released to us.  This has meant that we have found planning for the next phase of the lockdown difficult and have been put on the back foot in a public way. 

Throughout all of this is a huge concern for the students who each are missing the social interaction, learning new material, structure and relationships with adults that a normal week brings.  They will undoubtedly bounce back and be fine in the long run, but there will be some challenges ahead as the ones who need most support will have probably fared the least well throughout this time. 

As it stands we will prepare as well as we can, keep our vision intact, listen to understand, take courageous decisions and most importantly remain adaptable to the rapid changes that we experience. 

Mike Boddington 

19 June 2020