Focus on Education April 2021

We began the new term this morning in glorious – if chilly – sunshine. I hope that you were able to meet with family over the Easter break (maybe wrapped in blankets in the garden!) and that some of you enjoyed celebrating Vaisakhi despite the various restriction in place. We think too of our Muslim community during the holy month of Ramadan, which began last week.

With cases of Covid-19 continuing to fall, both locally and nationally, and with many of us now vaccinated, life is looking decidedly better. We are determined to keep students in school wherever possible. Of course, we would prefer to have no more positive cases and we therefore continue with protective measures such as twice-weekly home-testing, face coverings, ventilation, one way routes and social distancing in school. We can, however, begin to tentatively plan some sports fixtures, possible trips and expeditions again – which is very exciting. This is determined by the advice we receive from the Department for Education and Public Health England. The next announcement is due on 17 May 2021.

The expeditions which a good number of our students enjoy, at Bronze level (with a healthy number proceeding to Silver and Gold), are those which occur as part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. You will probably know that millions of young people have in fact benefited from the award since its inception in 1956. It allows teenagers to face up to and overcome challenges, to take controlled risks as part of a team, to follow their passions, to discover new skills and to make a voluntary contribution to their community. It might seem impossible to get our own children out for a family walk in their adolescent years, yet they will jump at the opportunity to trudge through mud with their friends, shouldering massive packs, to eat baked beans around the camp fire and to shiver under canvas (without the distraction of technology). It is simply a brilliant scheme, which teaches all sorts of skills, exposes young people to some fabulous landscapes and scenery and enriches them through the service of others. Prince Philip has bequeathed a wonderful legacy, which will continue to thrive.

Over the Easter holiday, I paused to think about His Royal Highness and his inspirational service. I last met him at Buckingham Palace in 2016 at the 60th Anniversary celebrations of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. He was naturally friendly as well as conspicuously interested in all those whom he met, rapidly putting students at ease when he congratulated them on their participation in Young Enterprise or in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award.

Stay well and safe.

Be kind to yourself and each other.

Dr Bird