We open our doors this week to our entire school body for the first time in five and a half months. What was most striking about our first day of on-site staff training was the uniformity of positivity about the return to site-based lessons. We have missed the pupils as much as the pupils have missed school and each other. Indeed, while we can often feel sad about the end of a long summer break, there is more of a sense of joy than usual for September.
Please do not get me wrong, like our pupils and their parents, we share an anxiety about our safety. Each of us, to a greater or lesser extent, has needed to balance in our minds the risk to our health and that of our loved ones against the need we feel for our pupils to return to learning. As a school we have taken many steps to give you and our staff comfort that we take this risk seriously. For example, converting more large rooms to classrooms, capping the number of pupils in a room, minimising the number of times pupils move from one room or set to another and of course investing in a multitude of cleaning liquids for hands and surfaces, duplicate kitchenware for food and nutrition lessons, distancing screens where distancing is otherwise not possible. The list could go on.
Ultimately, however, COVID-19 is a virus for which good hygiene and physical distancing go a great way to awards eliminating its spread. Some pupils and teachers will opt to wear masks when moving around the campus (indeed there is a good chance government guidance will instruct this in due course), but others may not. Having watched a video about how a really good handwash should take a minute, I am reminded again that the best way of remaining fully open throughout this coming period is to ensure we all take our own responsible decisions to protect everyone else. Whether that is wearing a mask, taking that bit longer to wash your hands, remembering to stay at a distance not only in the formal setting of a classroom but also in the informal setting of a sixth form common room, a staff room, a lunch queue, or on the walk back home.
In reality every step you take to mitigate the risks of the coronavirus may well help you, but fundamentally it will protect everyone you know and love. Returning to school is not about social distancing, but it is about social responsibility and physical distancing.