There was a time when schools tried to develop ‘character’ by insisting upon Spartan conditions. At Rossall, this famously included an outdoor swimming pool, helpfully ‘sheltered by the sea wall’. The pool has long since been demolished as has the alarmingly large school hospital which was situated conveniently close to the poolside. We no longer believe that character is forged in the furnace of extreme physical discomfort. However, until fairly recently, one heard a lot about the importance of ‘teaching resilience’. This has always bothered me because I do not believe that resilience is something that can necessarily be taught and, all too often, it can lead young people to conclude that they should simply ‘get on with it’ and stop complaining. There are times when this is a good enough strategy but there are times when it is a dismal modus operandi.
One might demonstrate resilience in the face of adversity but our ability to be courageous is dependent upon many competing factors, not least our observation of the behaviour of others. Now that children face real challenges and have been denied so much, those who talk about resilience and fret about a ‘snowflake’ generation have gone a little quiet. Perhaps that is because in a crisis, children have shown themselves to be more adaptive and resilient than many of us adults. When faced with uncertainty and isolation, they have tended not to be resentful or pessimistic. Rather, they have accepted the temporary limitations upon their lives and resolved to make the very best of circumstances. Never has that been more apparent than during the last few days. Zoom lessons are filled with the happy faces of children who, above all else, want to remain connected. They cherish what they have rather than mourning what they have lost. Their endless positivity and good humour should serve as an inspiration to all of us.
Young people have suffered a good deal over the past nine months. What might have seemed novel in April 2020 now constitutes a source of intense frustration. However, there has never been a time when a higher value has been placed upon access to education. There has never been a time when our teachers are more needed than now. It is a sad reality that many children around the world will not receive the support and encouragement that they deserve during this period.
Globally, governments have grappled with the logistical challenges posed by the virus and they have coped with varying degrees of success. Schools have had to respond to an ever changing landscape with U-turns, eleventh hour announcements and bewilderingly ambiguous guidance. As school leaders we must safeguard the physical and emotional health of all within our communities whilst ensuring that children continue to receive an outstanding quality of education. Above all else, we need to offer children a sense of stability by ensuring that the routines of their school lives continue where possible. These must not be wasted months and it is our ambition to ensure that no child at Rossall suffers academically due to a physical absence from the classroom. We have a successful formula and you will be aware of just how hard we work to look after our children during these times. However, it says a lot about our teachers that they are already reflecting upon all the lessons that we learned from delivering over thirty thousand online lessons in 2020. The ambition is always to enhance and refine our offering so as to ensure that our children continue to benefit from lessons that are truly outstanding. Furthermore, this time round, we are increasing the number and variety of co-curricular activities that we will be on offer. Our ambition is for the school to function as normally as possible.
This time, it feels different. As each day passes, the number of vulnerable people protected from this virus grows. It is hoped that by the middle of February, all vulnerable people within the UK will have received a vaccine. That is a gamechanger and as well as protecting the vulnerable it will also enable all of our children to enjoy a happier future.
Wishing everyone a happy New Year. We might have got off to a bumpy start but we are incredibly well prepared to support our children during this time. We are committed to making this an excellent year for our children and there will be many moments of joy and achievements to celebrate in the months ahead.
All best wishes,
Mr Jeremy Quartermain
Headmaster of Rossall School