Headmaster’s Blog: During difficult times, communities are forced to ask more of everyone in them

A tremendous amount has been asked of the ECS community recently – whether explicitly or otherwise – and if you wanted an example of a community that has worked hard, worked together, worked with purpose, and worked in the interests of others, Team ECS would be it.

It has been a total joy to have the School filled with pupils and staff since September, and to see learning – in all its many forms – up and running.  As we approach the half-term break I am deeply conscious that the last six-and-a-bit weeks have been a) possible, b) so successful and c) so enjoyable, thanks to our extraordinary community and the extraordinary hard work of everyone within it.

I am sure you will join me in raising a figurative glass this half term to the team of staff at ECS. Our teachers have responded superbly to a very different way of doing things, and have struck an exemplary balance between caring for the pupils’ pastoral needs after several months away from School and firing up the motors of learning and pedagogy. They have gone about this with skill and empathy and have worked tirelessly to make sure that the children’s experience and provision in School is at every turn safe, fun, engaging and nurturing.

Our catering team have had to re-think their provision and have put a great many measures in place to keep everyone fed safely and efficiently, and our team of cleaners have stepped up magnificently to the demands brought by C-19 of keeping the sites spotless. Mrs Bennett and AJ have been busier than ever, responding to first aid and medical callouts in our new way, and Mr Baurance and Miss Baxendale have made sure that our boarders have been able to return safely and with myriad initiatives in place to allow our boarding house to function and flourish.

You’ll have seen plenty of hand-san stations around the entrances to the School, but you perhaps won’t have clocked the several-dozen wall-mounted stations dotted around the site or the newly-installed sinks in both the Pre-Prep and Prep, nor have spotted the sanitzation packs that have sprung up in every classroom and corridor in the School. This is the stellar work of our maintenance crew, and my sincere thanks go to Martin and his team for the can-do way in which they work their way through their forth-road-bridge-like task list.

And as for the work-rate of our Administrative and other support staff: that has been simply stratospheric. Reporting exact figures of pupils and staff, cases and symptoms, absences and cover to each of DfE, Public Health England and DCC every day – whilst being the go-to people for all parents/guardians, pupils, staff and enquiries – is something which, when combined with ‘normal time’ duties, would overwhelm all but the very best office teams. And it is very clear to me that that is what we have at ECS.

One of the things I have found hardest about operating in Bubbles is getting out and about to catch up with colleagues and to check-in on how they are feeling. That’s an issue for a lot of school leaders at the moment, and we are trying increasingly-innovative ways to somehow get together as a staff body and to keep morale and spirits high.  Vouchers for coffee and cake, and Friday after-school doughnuts and fizz have served us well in EX1, and I am in awe of the team here for all that they have been able to do – and the way in which they have set about doing it.

I also want to offer a clamorous word of thanks to you, the families and friends of ECS. The challenges of the term have laid various demands at your door, too, and we have been extremely grateful for your warmth, your understanding, your kind comments, and your unstinting support of all things ECS.

And of course your children. They have been magnificent, and certainly deserve our collective thanks. A summer’s worth of planning and anxiety all came good the moment our pupils returned. They have responded with a terrific balance of earnestness, attention to the rules, care and nonchalance and it is thanks to their approach – their joy, their hard work, their vibrancy and their sense of fun – that we are all able to tap out from the first half of term in such good spirits.

‘During difficult times, communities are forced to ask more of everyone in them’. True. We have asked more of everybody this half term. Without exception you have delivered. Thank you.

Oh – and enjoy the break!

16 October 2020
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