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Unfailing cheer, dedication and motivation of staff and students shines through lock down

Posted on: 04/06/2020

I vividly recall the stormy January day when Rachael Warwick, Executive Headteacher, showed me around Didcot Girls’ School for the very first time, prior to my application for Headteacher. The rain didn’t dampen the excitement I felt as we visited lessons filled with creativity, challenge and a sense of leadership from staff and students alike that goes beyond the classroom. I couldn’t wait to apply.

A short few weeks later, I distinctly remember the sheer joy I felt when offered the post. I was due to start in May and began to eagerly anticipate my start date and plan ahead. As the Coronavirus began to dominate national news, events accelerated and schools were suddenly partially closed. I don’t think any of us could quite believe that we would not see many of our students for so long and like many others, I fervently hoped this would be a short-term measure and that May would still start as I had planned.

I had certainly never expected to start my Headship at Didcot Girls’ School against the backdrop of a national crisis or to lead a school where the majority of students are learning from home; yet I have never been more acutely aware of the heartbeat of the community that flourishes both within and outside of the school gates. After three whirlwind weeks, I already feel a strong sense of belonging to that community and the way in which it has pulled together, despite these strange and unprecedented times. It is testament to the strength of staff and students and the agility with which they have adapted to a new way of working, that I am able to feel such a powerful connection to this very special school. I have never been more humbled than by the trust placed in all of us by our school community. The support of parents, governors and the unfailing cheer, dedication and motivation of staff and students alike has made the navigation of this crisis smoother and for this, I am profoundly grateful.

It would have been very easy over recent weeks to become overwhelmed by the ongoing media coverage of the planned wider reopening of schools. Changing messages regarding scientific advice and a deluge of guidance arriving in inboxes daily mean that school leaders need to repeatedly pivot, review and revise plans in order to steer their school in the safest direction when the stakes have never been higher.  As a Headteacher, I am fortunate to be part of the Ridgeway Education Trust as it is that sense of family across our schools and the ongoing collaboration between us that has prevented any sense of isolation that I could have felt as a new Headteacher in these challenging times.

I am still planning for that day when I can stand at the entrance to the school and watch all of our girls return safely. We miss the hum of voices that echoes through the buildings at the start of the school day and the energy they bring. We continue to crave all those daily interactions with each other that form part of the routine of school life.  As we work hard to shape the next steps in home learning and plan to mitigate the risk of the virus though hygiene measures and the implementation of social distancing when it is safe to open schools more widely, I know that we can do this. I know that that heartbeat of the community, that I can feel, even from afar, will continue to connect us and strengthen us. I also know that I will never look back and the future for Didcot Girls’ School is bright.

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