It has taken me a while to come up with a response to my positive and enthusiastic blog post from mid December. I was looking forward to another thrilling and exhilarating term of excellence and creativity in our marvellous school - then COVID returned!
So here we are studying from home, with teachers responding swiftly to a return to online or distance learning, and parents supporting us all with patience and strength. Quite a turn around, and one that we could be quite disheartened by.
However, there are some positives to this situation and the last twelve months in general. It is an unfashionable thought, and one that I make with a clear and profound understanding of all the challenges of recent times.
Firstly, the swift return to online learning was exactly that - swift. The clarity provided meant we were better prepared, better supported and working with a group of young people who were more prepared for all that is to come. A group of young people who may be more resilient now than twelve months ago?
Our provision is not perfect, but much better. We are improving, and more open about what we are trying to achieve. Over the course of the last few months there has been more communication between school and home about pedagogy, how students learn, how we examine, why we do certain things in education, and what evidence base we have for them. These conversations and the democratisation of teaching and learning can only be a good thing.
The Shrewsbury community is clear that seeking the very best teachers is a priority for me. This is a challenge I relish, and those highly qualified and experienced professionals guide and support you all through the labyrinthine world of education. The best ones of course do this with a sense of reflection and renewal, and the openness to new thinking and opportunities to challenge long held but unsubstantiated beliefs. These are the teachers who always catch my eye - the ones who reflect on the lesson you just watched and say ‘well it could have been better’, even if it was already outstanding.
So we have the experts at Shrewsbury, but those experts are growing and learning too. In recent months we have appointed more of these outstanding teachers. An Historian with a first class honours degree from Oxford, another Mathematician from the same institution, an outstanding EY practitioner from one of our best feeder schools and scientists with PhDs. All keen to move to a school and country that values high quality teaching and learning.
Usually at this time of year we are advertising around twenty teaching positions - this is normal for a large school and a 8-10% turnover is a healthy one for any school. However, this year we retain 96% of staff as a result of the current situations in Thailand and the UK and as such look forward to finding only a few more exceptional people to join a community that reflects, grows and develops together in a resilient manner. COVID is something none of us wanted, but something that has shaped us, and in some ways shaped us positively.