|27 Jul 2021|
It seems scarcely credible that after 15 months of Covid pandemic and varying states of lockdown and loosening/tightening of the rules, disruption and worry has continued over the summer term for British schools.
In the summer term, transition from online learning to ‘normal’ school life, provided challenges that were as great as under lockdown: a rigorous regime of Covid testing to ensure the safety of pupils, staff and their families, maintaining bubbles, and providing reassurance to young people, many of whom were struggling to maintain their psychological wellbeing. And the end of the summer term brought new, sometimes unforseen, problems: heads warned of a drop in school attendance in the final week as parents withdrew their children to prevent them having to isolate during the summer holidays.
And with public exams on ‘special measures’ for a second year, there was much for teachers to worry about as they, and their students, awaited GCSE and A-level results.
Fundraising cancelled? Not a bit of it. With highly professional development teams in place, much school development activity continued and, in many cases, thrived. It was a time to think big, and to think different. On the edge of south-west London, Eleanor Holles School (LEH) chose to have its first Giving Day at the end of June. This was a bid to bring together the whole extended school community, physically and virtually, in celebration of everything that is wonderful about LEH.
Head of Development Jenny Blaiklock wrote:
‘If there have been any positives to come out of this pandemic, it is the renewed sense of powerful community.’
Significantly, the initiative had a specific objective: to fund bursaries for those who might not otherwise be unable to access the first-class education that LEH provides to girls. Widening access to a great education is a cause that many people warm to, especially in times of Covid when so many families have been hit very hard by the deprivations caused by the pandemic.
Despite the myriad negatives of recent months, it seems donors were craving connections and purpose in the way we all are. They want reassurance that the future will be bright, and schools were able to provide part of the solution. And in Britain, in the independent sector in particular, many parents felt enormous gratitude towards their children’s schools, so many of which had been extremely fast out of the blocks when it came to transforming their learning almost overnight, providing very impressive online offerings in which pupils were able to benefit from one-to-one contact with their teachers. While online provision was extremely patchy in the state sector, many independent schools received grateful messages from relieved parents who could see for themselves that their children were continuing to learn, and the lengths to which school staff had gone to ensure an extremely high standard of education.
Many schools also reaped the benefits of having been able to connect with a wider than usual range of alumni via events that had shifted online. Rather than being limited to those who could physically attend a limited number of events, schools were able to build relationships with those who lived far away, and in many cases, overseas.
The summer term also provided an opportunity for schools to embed the habit of fundraising and caring for others in their future alumni. The urge to help those less fortunate themselves was going strong in Kent where Tonbridge School’s latest ‘Sleepout’ broke the school’s fundraising record and raised more than £18,000 for Porchlight, a charity which supports homeless and vulnerable young people in Kent.
And now, surely, as the new academic year approaches, things can only get (even) better.
This article was produced by EMPRA, education-specialist PR agency.
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