Focus on Education January 2021

Whilst we head into our second and full week of Lockdown, we are determined to ensure that students keep connected and engaged and we are planning events for the term ahead. We will keep the HGS community spirit alive and attempt to ensure that this period is as fun as possible. Even though we have key worker children and some staff on site, the school campus is exceptionally quiet and we all terribly miss the buzz of the students. Once again, we here and at home have to bounce back. Collectively though we can do this and our resilience, strength of character and care for each other within our community will ensure we look to the horizon, hold our heads high, and head into 2021 with renewed determination.

The way you adapted so well last term was also mirrored by the way all the staff adapted. You showed great spirit, determination and resilience as well as good humour. As did all our staff. Faced with novel ways of teaching, with their daily norms and all the things that they love from their profession taken from them, teachers showed the same determination as you, all with the requisite wit, humour and great spirit that you would expect from them. Throughout the last term, I feel you were taught with passion, with spirit and with the high standards that we expect at HGS. This was done all behind masks, screens, and in rooms suffused with the smell of hand sanitiser and anti-viral desk cleaner.

And this happened whilst many of you were deeply anxious about COVID and the effects it might have on your family. There are just over 1040 of you sitting at home at the moment, and 15 here at school as the children of key workers. That is nearly 1060 individual stories. Each and every one of you has had to cope with worries about the virus affecting you, but many of you even more worried about how it has affected your older relations. A number of you have faced tragedy. Each and every one of you has had a silent, invisible cross that you have needed to bear which has weighed you down, yet as you have walked that onwards you have managed to do so without it affecting your daily life. Tragically, over the holiday a some of you have had to deal with losing someone immensely close to you. My heart goes out to you, and the prayers of the community are with you.

In addition to the lockdown and the need to revert to online teaching and learning, there is now a lack of clarity about the summer exams. The Department for Education stated that exams ‘will not go ahead as planned.’ At this moment, we don’t know exactly what that will mean.

Whatever happens with the exams, we will be teaching you the full curriculum as planned. We will be working on all the information that we are given and will keep you, and your parents informed and updated immediately we receive it.

But whatever advice and guidance we are given, the summer exam session is six months away. And that means, after the long and academically busy Autumn Term, we have a huge amount of ground to cover, not just in exam year groups, but also in every year group.

I want to make it very clear. HGS has not closed. HGS is open. Our provision has changed because we have been forced to change. But our teaching will continue, and those of you who have experienced this in the last major lockdown will know that in many ways learning online is far more intense, and often far harder, than learning in school. It requires focus, and it requires hard work. Please do contact your Subject teachers and Form tutors if you are struggling with any of the work. Please also refer to the Remote Learning guidance which we sent to your parents at the end of last week.

And just because HGS has changed the way it delivers the curriculum, it doesn’t mean that it changes its expectations on you. Assembly and Form time will still take place. Lesson times will remain the same. Breaks will remain the same. Our expectations of your behaviour are the same. We will keep the community spirit alive, and we will ensure that this period is also great fun.

Lockdown has taught us to consider what matters most in life. Give some thought to this:

When everything is gone, when material riches pass when the bareness of life is exposed, it is love that endures. Love is what endures through those times, which are not easy, either professionally and or personally.

A phrase often used is this: life is not about how high you fly, but about how well you bounce. It is about how you move on from tragedy, personal disappointment, and professional pushback. It is about how you encourage and propel yourself; not letting the fear of failure becomes a barrier standing in your way.

Whether you have already or not, every student will have to face challenges and setbacks. As we look to bounce back from these moments, it will be love that sustains you.

The 2 images about our work with the Homeless and our local Foodbank at the end of this piece demonstrate and show what a kind and loving community we are.

Once again, we are going to need to bounce back. Once again, we are going to need to collectively move on from personal disappointment and from professional pushback.

In addition to working hard and not losing our focus on academic development, we need to use this time of challenge to develop our resilience, our strength of character and love for each other. We must also use it as a time for self-reflection and personal development. We must use it to realise that to be happy is not to have a perfect life and that we alone are the authors of our own destiny. Many a time you will be told that you can be anything you want in the world. And you’re told that because you alone are the authors of your own destiny, the captain of your own ship we can either use this period to moan and complain or we look to the horizon, hold our head high, support each other and bounce back.

As we prepare ourselves for week 2 of Lockdown, and as we get ready for two months of hard work, for a new normal, for Virtual HGS think about the words below from Pope Francis. Remember them as you go about your lessons today and prepare for the months ahead.

‘You can have flaws, be anxious, and even be angry, but do not forget that your life is the greatest enterprise in the world. Only you can stop it from going bust.

Many appreciate you, admire you and love you.

Remember that to be happy is not to have a sky without a storm, a road without accidents, work without fatigue, and relationships without disappointments.

To be happy is to find strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, and security in the stage of fear, love in discord.

It is not only to enjoy the smile, but also to reflect on the sadness. It is not only to celebrate the successes, but also to learn lessons from the failures. It is not only to feel happy with the applause, but also to be happy in anonymity.

Being happy is not a fatality of destiny, but an achievement for those who can travel within themselves.

Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings. It’s to be able to talk about you. It is having the courage to hear a “no”. It is confidence in the face of criticism, even when unjustified.

It is to kiss your children, pamper your parents, to live poetic moments with friends, even when they hurt us. To be happy is to let live the creature that lives in each of us, free, joyful and simple.

It is to have the maturity to be able to say: “I made mistakes”. It is to have the courage to say, “I am sorry”. It is to have the sensitivity to say, “I need you”. It is to have the ability to say, “I love you”.

May your life become a garden of opportunities for happiness. That in spring may it be a lover of joy. In winter a lover of wisdom

And when you make a mistake, start all over again. For only then will you be in love with life.

You will find that to be happy is not to have a perfect life. But use the tears to irrigate tolerance. Use your losses to train patience. Use your mistakes to sculptor serenity. Use pain to plaster pleasure. Use obstacles to open windows of intelligence.

Never give up.

Never give up on people who love you.

Never give up on happiness, for life is an incredible show.’

Stay safe and well.

Be kind to yourself and each other.

Dr Bird