Staying Connected During the Pandemic at St Catherine’s, Hoddesdon
10th September 2020
Jo Devonshire, Deputy Headteacher at St Catherine’s Primary, Hoddesdon, reflects on the schools experiences during lock-down:
As I pondered what to write, and which moments to take note of, I kept turning to our school motto ‘Aim High; In Life, in Learning, With God – Together’ which has been a guide to our response. To some extent, lock-down has allowed us the space to think more on how we build and consolidate relationships with those in our school community, and how we stay connected, albeit physically apart.
Initially, our thoughts were on how we could support children to continue the curriculum from home, whilst also having the time and encouragement to learn new skills from those at home, without putting undue pressure on our families. Teachers provided paper learning packs before lock down began and set, monitored and reviewed daily tasks via our online platform ‘Purple Mash.’ They kept in touch with children and their families, setting new tasks each week and taking advantage of the weekly newsletters to share ideas generated from home schooling.
However, it is the way in which we have sought to stay connected and support each other t
hat deserves equal celebration. At St Catherine’s, we Aim High; With God; encouraging children to explore their own beliefs and living according to our Christian values and in partnership, to live, learn and grow in independence and in faith through hope in our future.
This unprecedented time has given us unexpected opportunities to live according to our Christian values and our children to flourish in new ways.
At the beginning of lock-down, we joined the country in sharing our
thankfulness for our key-workers and NHS. Whilst some of those at home took to their steps to clap, those in attendance at school thought about all those who were helping us at this time, including those special to them, and came together to create a reminder for the duration of ‘Cool Club’ as they so aptly named their pod. As Lock-down continued, so did a time of compassion for others. Children in Cool Club wanted to create flags. As one Year 1 pupil described, “in prayer spaces we made flags to think about everyone around the wo
rld.” Staff contacted families for whom this time may be exceptionally difficult or c
hallenging, reassuring them that we were in this together and offering support where we could. Staff arranged food donations and created food parcels to support families when supermarkets were overwhelmed, and our local Morrison’s continued to support our community with regular parcels and a staff hamper to show their appreciation too. Members from our community came together to help each other.
The whole school community, those at home and in school came together to share in Hope, and joined in the Rainbow trail, displaying rainbows in their windows, filling the hall, and capturing a rainbow over the school which we could share along with our pre-recording of the children singing Raise a Hallelujah, a school favourite that reminds us that hope will arise…
I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm,
Louder and Louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise
Death is defeated, the King is alive!
– ‘Raise a Hallelujah’ by Jonathon David Hesler & Melissa Hesler (Bethel Music)
As the nation came together to celebrate Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday, we too took time to recognise his achievement and service, in raising money for charity and his time serving in the British Army. Children in ‘Cool Club’ wanted to sing Happy Birthday, and managed to persuade the busy canteen staff to bake a birthday cake that they all enjoyed later.
During lock-down we have tried to stay connected and maintain friendships. Purple Mash has meant that children can email each other in a safe, monitored way, and teachers maintain daily contact. Staff sent every child a postcard, recognising the current feeling of uncertainty but also the hope for the future. We also used our social media to offer support to families and celebrate the wonderful learning taking place at home. Our weekly ‘Learning Together’ blog collected resources, ideas and activities that could be done at home on various topics, including the teaching of curriculum subjects such as Phonics and Reading, as well as ideas for VE Day, staying safe online, and supporting positive well-being. Facebook has been used to celebrate all the children’s learning at home, from pictures of the daily challenge such as ‘recreating a book cover’ to ‘creating a heart and filling it with things you are thankful for.’ Families have joined us in sending pictures of all the fantastic activities they have been getting up to at home.
As we were once again encouraged to take daily exercise, walking became something to build in to the day. If children were in school they would take part in a ‘Daily Mile’, so as the lockdown continued, we encouraged our families to take part in a daily ‘walk and talk’, giving them a new focus for conversation or observations each week. Some of our daily challenges also encouraged children to appreciate the wild and consider how they care for creation. Within the daily challenges, they became bird spotters, suggested ways to improve their local area, or considered the wonder of weather through poetry. Our school vegetable patch has thrived and the care our ‘Cool Club’ gardeners have shown was evident in the fruitful harvest. During June, we are also participating in the Wildlife Trust 30 Days Wild challenges, again providing different ways to appreciate the richness of nature around us, and take an opportunity to explore our spirituality in different ways.
Song is an important aspect of our collective worship at St Catherine’s. Each year, on Songs & Sunflowers Day, we consider the loss of loved ones together through music, prayer spaces and the planting of sunflowers that children take home to grow. The children have been reminded of this as they nurture their sunflower seed and watch them flower. Each week, our virtual assembly led by our Headteacher or our Vicar from the parish church begins with a favourite hymn, in which the children can join from wherever they are, and we are reminded that ‘The Lord is here, His spirit is with us’. We are able to explore deep questions, such as ‘Is this just?’, ‘Am I allowed here?’ ‘Which lives matter?’ ‘What is courage?’ and through reflection, our children are beginning to explore their own beliefs and grow in independence.
We, like so many, have trust and courage to take one more step along the world. With the help of our choir who individually recorded their performance of Power in Me, which was shared on the school media accompanied by pictures highlighting some of the fantastic achievements of lock-down, we were reminded that…
When my mind is closing down,
And I’m lacking inspiration,
I know I can do something about it,
No one can stop me learning,
Create my dreams and future,
And I will feel empowered from within
– ‘Power in Me’ by Rebecca Lawrence (Bethel Music)
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