Although my last blog was posted quite recently, it does feel as though we have now entered a different reality; the School is closed, except to a handful of pupils whose key-worker parents have welcomed our support, along with just a couple of boarders who have not returned home or to their guardians.
The teaching and support staff and the Senior Leadership Team continue to keep the wheels turning, as we accustom ourselves to video-conferencing, working from home, ‘own clothes’ and increasingly natural-looking hair styles! The School and our magnificent grounds have an eerie feel to them; fitting in my 10,000 steps per day is not easy as I commute from just across the road, so I have taken to striding round the fields and paths – missing the smiling faces to which I am accustomed. Meanwhile, parents (and teachers) who find themselves working from home in the interminable company of their (now literally) nearest and dearest, face new challenges of their own which cannot be underestimated; also keeping the nation’s wheels turning as they combine work with parenting.
In many ways, though, we are working hard to maintain continuity in the delivery of teaching and learning through a range of online systems, which are adjusting their bandwidth to accommodate the surge in demand. Academic departments have kept our pupils at least as busy as on normal school days, introducing imaginative elements such as the English Department’s recording and sharing of favourite poems. And it is to our pupils’ great credit that, by all accounts, they are rising admirably to the challenges of the virtual learning environment, and to being cooped up, despite their instincts for freedom. The pastoral team has been no less engaged, with Housemasters/mistresses/House Parents continuing to support their pupils, working through the usual Tutor teams. Old Millhillians have also come to the fore, recording songs and choral pieces for our online enjoyment.
Life is full of paradoxes, and somehow in this age of social distancing the Mill Hill School community, along with the other Foundation Schools, has never felt more close-knit; looking after each other but also keeping an eye on what we can do for the national cause and our local community. I, for one, was certainly out on the Ridgeway last night applauding the heroic efforts of the NHS at the appointed time, just as we as a Foundation found our own ways of posting our thanks through our social media channels. This technology, which is now part of our everyday communications and has come in for criticism in various ways as having an isolating effect, is now coming into its own in this new world in which we are ‘together apart’.
I hope that you will already have had the opportunity to sample some of our posts covering recent initiatives: my recorder performance having followed Ms Thurtell’s daily lessons (click here to view); Mr Kyle’s range of imaginative concerts; Ms Randell’s regular artwork postings; physical fitness routines with the Sports Department; wellbeing tips such as healthy eating from Miss Boyle and our Good Neighbours letter-writing project in which our pupils have written to those who may be grateful for a friendly word.
As the coming weeks unfold, and the picture of what lies ahead becomes clearer, you can be sure that there will be many more exciting initiatives to come. Watch this cyber-space!