We’re ready for a safe, secure return. Are you?
David Rose, Director for Brookes Europe, Africa, Middle East, explains how staff at Brookes UK have prepared the school to ensure a safe return for everyone in September.
‘FROM LOCKDOWN TO UNLOCKING POTENTIAL’
The 100 plus days of enforced school closure and society lockdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact – economically and emotionally, professionally and personally. New vocabulary quickly became embedded in everyday dialogue – social distancing, critical workers, essential travel, face covering, shielding, self-isolation, furloughing and so on.
In March 2020 who could have foreseen that education would face a six month hiatus with no daily school routines, no normal schooling, no formal examinations and little or no social interaction. However, learning did not stop. For most children remote, distance and online learning became the norm and the ‘school of mum and dad’ rapidly developed. Live streamed lessons and assemblies, video conferencing, Google Classrooms, Zoom and Skype meetings, BBC Bitesize and BBC Teach took over and then of course there was Joe Wicks and his daily workouts. While the learning hasn’t been normal, the learning curve has been steep.
In the 1950s the American anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote: ‘We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.’ COVID-19 was, and for many still is that unsolvable problem. But creativity, determination and resolve have opened the door to a new style of learning and communication. When this pandemic is finally conquered, many of the strategies, approaches and tools that have been put in place will remain as they point the way to a different, but necessary change in pedagogy.
For those schools like Brookes UK which have a growth mindset, a family ethos and a can-do attitude, the crisis of the pandemic was quickly transformed into a call to action – to challenge ourselves, refresh our thinking and do things differently.
It hasn’t been easy, but as a result, there can be few independent schools that are as well-prepared and ready to welcome existing and new students back into school from 3rd September 2020 in all age groups – both our day students and our boarders from the UK and around the world.
Guided as always by our core principle of care and wellbeing, here are a few examples of what Brookes UK is able to offer:
- A safe, spacious and rural setting. It is not a city centre school – it is surrounded by fields and woodlands. Travel into urban centres such as Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge is carefully managed and available through a school provided bus service.
- Class sizes are small (typically up to 12 per class) and the layout of classrooms and communal areas have allowed the school has put in place social distancing measures that few can match.
- Contact between students is restricted through grouping them together, avoiding close interaction between groups, arranging classrooms with forward facing desks, one-way systems, staff maintaining distance from pupils and other staff, use of face coverings where appropriate.
- In the boarding accommodation numbers per bedroom are restricted with single occupancy available for all those who request it. Find out more about boarding at Brookes UK.
- The coronavirus infection rates in Suffolk, where the school is located, remain amongst the lowest in England – with some parts of the county reporting less than one positive test result per 100,000 people. (This compares with 8 cases per 100,000 in London and 140 cases per 100,000 in cities such as Leicester.) There have been no confirmed cases involving the school, students and their families, and our staff.
- Brookes receives daily updates regarding air travel restrictions, UK entry and government guidance on school operations so we are fully informed.
- Students arriving in the UK are required to pass health checks initiated by the UK Border Agency.
- Students are met at the airports by Brookes UK staff and are able to quarantine for the recommended 14 days either in the school or with guardians.
- Staff are fully trained to ensure safe distancing, frequent hand washing, personal hygiene, working in safe ‘bubbles’ and reducing proximity are all part of the daily routine for all students. Staff are also trained to recognise symptoms and to know the procedures to be taken in the event of any risk.
- All students receive comprehensive health education so they understand the importance of the precautions and are empowered to do what’s necessary to keep themselves and others safe and well.
- The school has undergone the most intensive cleaning and sanitisation and this is maintained daily with particular attention given to our accommodation areas, classrooms, labs, kitchens and bathrooms.
- Implementation of The school has good links with local medical services including the well-known West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
Brookes Key Centre
At Brookes UK we understand that the prolonged absences from school and potential delays in rejoining classes are likely to have had a significant effect on progress, curriculum coverage and emotional wellbeing.
Our tailored learning programmes enable our teachers to focus on individual students’ needs and bring them up to speed on areas of education they may have missed during lockdown.
This also means new day students, and national and international boarding students, can join at any time if a September start is not suitable. Through our tailored, flexible approach to learning, students are able to complete courses successfully and grow in personal self-confidence, independence and character.
We have excellent pastoral care arrangements, with staff trained in mental health and wellbeing who are available for students who may need that additional support.
This extract is from research by Barry Carpenter, CBE, Professor of Mental Health in Education, Oxford Brookes University and Matthew Carpenter, Principal, Baxter College, Kidderminster:
“When the children return to school there needs to be a Recovery Curriculum in place. Suddenly daily routines have evaporated and with it, any known curriculum framework. No more rushing to get the school bag ready and running out of the door to begin the journey to school. For most children their daily goal in going to school is not just to learn but to see their friends and to feel a sense of self-worth that only a peer group can offer. You cannot underestimate the impact of the loss of that social interaction. It is as key to their holistic development as any lesson. Human beings are fundamentally social creatures, and the brain grows in the context meaningful human to human interaction. What will the children be making of this period of non-attendance? What worries will they have because grown-ups have now stopped them going to school indefinitely?
We suggest a Recovery Curriculum is built as a systematic, relationships-based approach to reigniting the flame of learning in each child. Many children will return to school disengaged. School may seem irrelevant after a long period of isolation, living with a background of silent fear, always wondering if the day will come when the silence speaks and your life is changed forever. Our quest, our mission as educators, should be to journey with that child through a process of re-engagement, which leads them back to their rightful status as a fully engaged, authentic learner.”
This is precisely what Brookes UK is delivering through its positive education model, growth mindset, family ethos and can-do attitude.
Brookes UK, and Brookes schools around the world, are ready to help students to face the challenges of an uncertain future and to unlock their potential.