The School Community - Together Again

The Head's Study

It has been a tumultuous start to term: the arrival of our boarders on 6 September, chaperoned back from airports to School and now creating safe bubbles during 2 weeks of Guided Home Learning in their boarding houses; the return of all our day girls to campus; our planned move to Mixed Model Learning combining girls in class and on Teams; and, all of this in the shadow of the unexpected death of our much loved Director of Art and Aesthetics, Graeme Preedy. Our community spirit has been challenged and found to be hugely supportive and comforting.

During his 20 years at Royal High School, Mr Preedy created an inspiring Art School that welcomed one and all, recognising and encouraging talent. He was an inspiration to successive generations of students, countless numbers of whom have gone on to distinguished careers in visual arts. The Art School he created is one of the brightest jewels in the school’s crown. Monday’s assembly led by Rev Phillip Hawthorn of St Stephen’s Church and Christian Duckworth of our Art department allowed us all time to pause, reflect and give thanks for Mr Preedy’s extraordinary life. Later in the week, Mr Briggs will explain how we plan to commemorate all that Mr Preedy gave to the school.

A tight-knit community has also been very much in evidence as we have adapted to the new procedures in school. Girls have quickly embraced their staggered timetables, indoor and outdoor zones, expectations about hand hygiene and use of face coverings inside. At the end of last week, I spoke to every single year group as well as our boarders about personal responsibility. Having successfully opened the School, we all need to work together to ensure that we remain open. So, I have reminded them that we are all responsible for following the school Covid rules but that we are equally responsible for reminding others to ensure they do so too. Outside School I will expect all students, staff and their families to comply with the new law that comes into effect on Monday forbidding gatherings of more than 6 either inside or outside the home.

As we move to the cold and flu season parents may find this excellent NHS online diagnostic tool helpful in distinguishing the difference between a seasonal cold and Covid symptoms.

Having said that, this week’s weather looks wonderful so please remind your daughters to spend break and lunchtimes outside. We will also be encouraging them out into the fresh air. When inside I have reminded them to maintain 1m distance as much as possible to minimise the risk of being identified as a ‘close contact’ should someone fall ill. For this reason, the use of common rooms for Years 10 and above has been adjusted.

One of few downsides of being a 'Bring Your Own Device' (BYOD) school has been that girls carry with them expensive and delicate kit for lessons. If your daughter is not yet using a padlock to secure her laptop and her mobile phone in her school bag, please ensure this is organised this week. Girls also need to have headphones/earbuds in School for lessons and supervised after School study.

Adjustments have also been made to our lunch provision. Every girl will now have four hot meals each week with only one cold take away lunch. Their choice of sandwich has been pre-ordered and girls with food allergies will have their cold lunch bagged and labelled to avoid any confusion. Thank you to Holroyd Howe, our caterers, for responding so quickly to suggested improvements to meal provision.

Increased use of our minibuses, including the three new routes opened this term, resulted in some teething problems. The correct procedures and training are all in place but whilst girls adapt to the new systems and larger amount of minibus traffic we have increased staffing supervision including a senior member of the team on hand to deal with any issues.

Thank you to everyone who attended last week’s virtual Head’s Reception and Key Stage meetings. I missed the opportunity to welcome parents in person to the School but appreciated that many more of you could join us via our Teams Live platform than might otherwise have been able to get into the School. Heads of Key Stage and tutors talked parents through milestones in the coming year and answered a wide range of age specific questions. I hope the evening was helpful to long serving as well as parents new to the RHS community.

Quite a few of you asked about sport. PE and games lessons have resumed during the day and it has been lovely seeing year groups on the astro, netball courts and playing field. Fitness levels are down, as is common in September, and the focus is on building back everyone’s stamina. After school and Saturday sport will resume as planned from Monday 21 September once our boarders re-join lessons. For this week, our boarders will continue to have exclusive use of the grounds, sports areas, art and music school after hours once day girls have gone home. In order to create safe boarding houses and avoid the risk of any quarantining girls coming into close contact with our day girls, we will be maintaining this day/boarder divide for one more week.

Our RHS Active programme will also start up once more from Monday 21 September and Mrs Hughes will be in touch with parents and girls about this term’s programme.

Organisational matters have eclipsed my weekly thought piece but I would like to reassure you that there has been much thinking going on during this first week. Remote learning has allowed us all to review conventional approaches to education and this next stage of our Mixed Model Learning will continue this journey for the benefit of your daughters.