Delivering Through Lockdown

Issue 60

One of our school aims is to develop boys and young men of excellent character.

For Newcastle School for Boys, this is much more than the sometimes empty rhetoric of school aims published on a website or in a glossy prospectus. It is part of the everyday activity and language of our school – something that both boys and staff would recognise and reference regularly.

To support us in this, we have devised a character compass that captures the six key virtues we are seeking to develop: community, integrity, resilience, courage, leadership and empathy. It might be assumed that during the recent weeks and months of lockdown and the scramble to grasp new technology and to continue delivering academic lessons, that there wouldn’t have been much time for this. Quite the reverse: it has never been more important.

Resilience has been key in our response to the challenges of coronavirus and lockdown. The resilience of our boys, staff and parents has been quite remarkable. Sure, life has been different. It simply isn’t possible to deliver the full school experience remotely, but I am proud of how close we have been to achieving that. Resilience hasn’t just been about working remotely or learning how to use new technologies. It has also been about finding new ways of achieving things that might otherwise have been abandoned. In addition to providing live lessons, we have continued to run regular and frequent pastoral support sessions for boys in their class and tutor groups. Initially this was achieved online but as lockdown has eased, we have been able to do this face-to-face in school. Throughout lockdown, we have also delivered multiple weekly assemblies online with parents now able to access those as part of the audience. Each May, we hold a concert showcasing the very best of the School’s music across our Junior and Senior Schools. This was still able to go ahead in an online format. Similarly, our annual prize day – a celebration of the School’s and the boys’ achievements marking the end of the academic year. Whilst we would have loved to host this event in the sunshine at South Northumberland Cricket Club again, it too has gone ahead in a digital format but still with awards and prizes, guest speakers and an impressive speech from our head boy. The end of our term has allowed the chance to run a carefully managed and socially distanced sports activity week for boys in Years 7, 8 and 9. This will mean that nearly all of our boys have been able to attend school at some point since lockdown began. Our Junior School fully reopened for all year groups on 15th June. We are now looking forward to and preparing for September when we hope that school, and life in general, can be less restrictive and that we will be able to see all boys in all year groups in school on a full-time basis. That is what we are planning towards, as well as doing some sensible contingency planning should things change before then or during the coming months. The need to keep all children engaged in their learning to ensure their continued academic progress to support their futures as well as promoting their wellbeing through contact with their peers and teachers is abundantly clear.

The autumn also marks the start of the main period of recruitment and application for boys seeking places. Recent years have seen an increase in demand for those places. Each year, in September and October, we host our open days and plan to do so again this year. However, just as in many other areas, we need to build in resilience and contingency. So our open days will go ahead but, if necessary, they will be supplemented by technology to ensure that all those who are interested in Newcastle School for Boys have the opportunity to explore everything that we offer and have continued to do so in recent months.

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