In Conversation With

Issue 65


In a sentence, how would you describe the year 2020? The single most challenging year for businesses in living memory. How has the school adapted to the Coronavirus Crisis? Like all schools we have had to adapt in ways which would have been impossible to predict before the pandemic struck. In order to preserve our high standards of education we needed to be agile in our response and creative in our methods whilst adhering to all the necessary but stringent safety requirements put in place. There have been differing challenges since the first period of lockdown during the last summer term. Whilst we have been able to teach on site we have had to adapt to working in student year group ‘bubbles’, in zoned areas of the school. Cleaning regimes have been intensive and planned around the school timetable to ensure sanitisation between lessons. The serving of lunches and management of the dining room has been a challenge to ensure social distancing. We have had to provide PPE and detailed guidance for teachers to ensure their safety, altering the layouts of all classrooms to ensure appropriate distancing. Probably the most significant challenge has been during the times when restrictions have meant the majority of students have not been able to be on site. Our teachers have had to skilfully adapt the way in which lessons are delivered via remote technology and students have had to learn to work at home. What are you currently working on? My main focus at the moment is undertaking detailed planning to ensure the ongoing financial stability and resilience of the school. Like many independent schools and businesses across the country, the pandemic has had a significant financial impact and there will inevitably be challenges arising in some of our key business areas, for example the overseas boarding market. However, we have been able to respond robustly to the many challenges faced to date and are in a good position to continue to do so. At the same time, we are looking strategically to the future and a lot of work is continuing to enhance the school’s facilities in key areas such as the completion of our sixth form upgrade and development of our sports pitches. These are exciting and important projects which are a fantastic distraction from the day to day response to Covid! What have you learned about yourself this year? From my experience of juggling working from home with home schooling for my three sons, I have certainly learned that I do not have the patience to be a teacher! More seriously, I have learned that you are only as good as the team around you and I am lucky to work with colleagues who have worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the school in such difficult times. What has been your proudest moment in the last 12 months? The first day of the academic year in September when we successfully re-opened the school after weeks of intense preparations. Everybody felt as safe as possible and seeing our students return on site after being away for what felt a very long time was a joy to behold. Which regional businesses have you admired in their responses to the pandemic? I greatly admire all the local interdependent shops in York and that is why Bootham School is delighted to be the main sponsor of Indie York. These shops and businesses help give York a unique character which makes it so appealing to all our international boarding families. It has been very difficult to see the devastating impact of the pandemic on many of these independent businesses and I sincerely hope that there is a positive light at the end of the tunnel in the very near future. What can the education sector learn from this difficult period? I think that there are positives that can be taken from new ways of teaching and learning that have been necessarily developed during periods of lockdown. Development of the use of technology in teaching can be built upon and enhanced in the future when we are fully returned to the classroom. Additionally, schools are hugely important communities for students, parents and staff and I believe that our periods of enforced absence will remind us of the real importance of community and togetherness for the future Any New Year hopes or resolutions? Sadly I have seen many families severely impacted by a dreadful 2020. My hopes and prayers are that they remain positive and 2021 brings far better fortune as the world returns to relative normality as quickly as it can. What does the School have planned for 2021? Operationally, the focus continues to be on providing a seamless education for all our students in such strange times. We are continuing to develop our facilities and a priority is completing the upgrade of all the bedrooms in our boarding houses. Looking to the future we have begun to prepare for the very exciting prospect of Bootham’s bicentenary year in 2023 which will be a time of huge celebration and is something to really look forward to.

Sign-up to our newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.