Well, what a first half term of this academic year we have had! In some ways it has felt just like every other start to the year; new children in crisp uniforms; the hustle and bustle of settling in to new routines; darkening nights and wet play times but of course in so many other ways it has been vastly different.
For those not within schools, it may be hard to imagine the lengthy risk assessments and strict rules and routines which are needed to keep our children and staff safe. We have new routines of handwashing; learning resources, previously taken for granted, following quarantine procedures and children and adults in bubbles which cannot mix. In fact, in most schools, the only chance children will have to see other classes is if they have a weekly ‘Zoom’ collective worship or assembly.
It must be said that the children have responded brilliantly and have taken all of this in their stride and that the parents are delighted to have their children back in school but it is the staff this has really taken its toll on.
Alongside the added workload of remote planning for children who are isolating and the responsibility of following a specific and detailed risk assessment they have their own personal anxieties about staying well and safe in themselves and for their families.
It is a great sadness that one of the criteria of the risk assessment is for no large gatherings which means that daily collective worship, which is the heartbeat of a school community has to happen in such a different way.
There is something special about coming together in one place to listen, sing, learn and reflect. As we read the instruction in Hebrews 10: 24-25, ‘and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together..’, it is not hard to understand the importance of the meeting together in strengthening and supporting each other and just like the Church, where corporate worship has had to change, so too has our collective worship. Individual bubbles hold their own worship, but not meeting daily as a school community to strengthen, challenge and support each other is something we all miss and look forward to returning to one day.
As we look ahead to how education will adapt and change in this strange time, I invite you to pray with us: pray for our schools; pray for the families, the children and the staff. Pray for leaders and Governors. Pray that as the heart beats differently the health and wellbeing of the school community will be strengthened.