Schools in lockdown: stories from the Diocesan Education News

Published: Wednesday July 14, 2021

We know many of our colleagues working in our family of church schools go many extra miles to ensure their community of children get as much opportunity as possible to flourish and we are very grateful for everyone’s dedication. Occasionally we get a glimpse of this in action.
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Recently one of the education team received an email from a headteacher sent at 23.45pm from a tent in their school field. They were camping with their year 6 children in lieu of the residential trip which had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. As well as responding to the email, the headteacher was able to describe the fun and buzz of the evening, seeing it as a real ‘rainbow in the puddles’ moment during this challenging time.

We’re not sure which is most amazing – the stamina of the head to be up for camping midweek after such a turbulent year or their dedication in replying to work emails in a tent at midnight. Either way – like so many in others in our schools – you are an unsung hero! Thank you.

Some reflections on how some schools and local parishes, communities and families have engaged and lived out schools’ Christian vision across this year…

Visits from the church community have been greatly missed by both school and the latter. However, interactions have been creative and innovative solutions were found, for example through online events. Harvest was focussed on the journey of the food collected for their festival – filmed remotely being passed on and on so that an empty box became one which groaned under the weight of the children’s gifts and the message of diversity and interdependency was made. The OTB team have streamed their sessions on zoom, finding alternative ways to be part of the worshipping life of the school. Local pensioners living in care homes nearby really appreciated receiving correspondence from children and created a dialogue by writing back to them. A year ago, the usual induction process for the 4-year-olds, could not take place. Instead older buddies wrote to the new ones in an equally alternative supportive process, demonstrating the closeness and care of the school family. Instead of carols in church, there were ‘Carols around the Fire’ held outside in the grounds with children in their bubbles around 3 fire pits. This had been a very successful event much appreciated by parents and families.

In normal times the Open the Book team contributes regularly to worship and the school makes good use of the church for events such as Christian festivals. The school and church are working together for the Eco church award. There are plans to rewild the graveyard and create a reflective space there. This will provide opportunities for greater involvement of children in using this area for a variety of purposes. For example, the higher position of the church overlooking the valley and school provides opportunities for spiritual development. The school Easter service has been recorded as well as worship for classes. In this way, families are sharing the worshipping life of the school and have commented they miss it now the children are back in school. There are plans for reordering the church to provide an increased space which is accessible for all. This will allow more people from the local community to join school events. The school has participated in recent church-led village/local community initiatives during the pandemic. For example, displaying Advent/Christmas figures in windows. Currently the church focus is on the tree of hope for Lent/Easter involving a tree, cross and stones to make a cairn.

Lockdown has been felt to have significantly increased engagement. The local community including church have successfully supported the school community in very practical ways. They provided laptops – approx. 40- for any child without one. They worked closely with the school to deliver food parcels where needed, often supplementing those for children on free school meals. The school is very involved with the local Cotswolds radio, for example, singing carols and relaying messages. Links with the town’s senior citizens (eg at the Evergreen Club) are good and there are plans to strengthen these further. The church are live streaming their services and the school has held recent festivals outside the church and are planning to do so again for Easter.

The Open the Book team, shared with St Lawrence, Lechlade is streaming their contributions to collective worship. Before the Covid restrictions/lockdown, children regularly visited the small village church for worship. The vision’s aims of linking with the local community were lived out in the way that older children gave regular practical support in the village hall shop – prior to lockdown. Remembrance Day 2020 was marked in the village street by the children standing on one side and the villagers on the other in another act of togetherness.

Thank you to Holy Apostles, Uley, Northleach and Southrop CofE Primary Schools.

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