Coronavirus has thrown up a myriad of challenges for schools across the country and each institution has its own unique circumstances. It is clear that there has been some outstanding practice across the independent sector and some innovative approaches to online learning and activity provision. All staff who work in education deserve a huge pat on the back for the way in which they have tried to maintain a sense of normality in a situation that is anything but ‘normal.’
From speaking with the young men and women at Plymouth College it has become clear that the biggest hole in educational provision during the first lockdown has been the sense of community that is so hard to replicate remotely.
To that end, we have used this lockdown to find ways in which we can still maintain a sense of togetherness and encourage pupils to contribute to the school community, albeit virtually. Consequently, we have launched some ambitious new ventures and maintained some of our firm favourites when it comes to extra-curricular provision.
The workout videos and online challenges of the first lockdown remain in place, but this period of home learning has also seen the introduction of a Community Choir, where pupils, staff and parents can all sing along – with microphones on mute of course – and share the joy of music making without feeling conscious about the quality of their own voice. An online running club has been established for the keen athletes, allowing them to follow weekly run sessions and report these back to staff members. An Outdoor Education Club has been in operation, encouraging pupils to experience the great outdoors in their own gardens, or complete team building challenges from the comfort of their own homes. Pupils in the Sixth Form have started a mentoring scheme for pupils lower down the school who are struggling with the challenges of coronavirus and have been instrumental in helping to support younger pupils. All of these activities have enabled pupils to stay connected with their friends, teachers and the wider Plymouth College community and ensured we do not lose the sense of togetherness even though we may not physically be in the same place.
We have also seen some other new initiatives take shape in the new ‘virtual’ world we inhabit. The monthly ‘Plymouth College Presents Series’ has seen interviews with staff, parents and former pupils who have pursued careers in sport. These have ranged from Neil Warnock (current manager of Middlesborough F.C.- a former parent) to Tom Daley (former World Diving Champion and Olympic Bronze Medalist – a former pupil) and have introduced current members of our community to those in whose footsteps they are following. Additionally the weekly ‘An Evening With…’ series has seen ‘live’ Q & A interviews with guests from a range of backgrounds who might inspire our pupils to pursue a career in certain fields. To date, guests have included Christophe Ridley (Premiership Rugby Referee), Heather Knight (England Women’s Cricket Captain), John Hannah (Hollywood actor and T.V. star) and Tom Pursglove MP and we are excited about the guest list for the weeks ahead.
Many of these things will not be new and will – I have no doubt – be in operation in schools up and down the country. As lockdown drags on however, it has never been more important to try and keep the sense of community – that defines schools like ours – alive. Plymouth College is a wonderful place and one which is built on the community, something we are endeavouring to keep alive in these challenging times.
- Mr Mutlow, Director of Sport.