After more than two months of studying at home, we were delighted to welcome pupils and staff back to Highgate this week. Classrooms, hallways, playgrounds and communal spaces were filled again with lively chatter, happy reunions and a renewed sense of purpose, as friends, teachers and colleagues were reunited.
“Schools in lockdown feel empty, shorn of purpose and laughter and busy-ness. So it’s been fantastic to have everyone back,” Mr Sam Pullan, Head of Lower School, explains. “So much chatter, life, excitement and enthusiasm, all helped along by the comfortable familiarity of routines (they, and we, hadn’t forgotten after all).”
Year 13 Heads of School, Robert Waters and Raphaella Lexton, commented: ‘We’re both excited to come back to school and see our friends and teachers again. It finally feels like things are slowly going back to normal!‘
Millie in Year 4 added: “I was very excited to return to school because when I am alone without my friends it takes away my energy. Seeing my friends on the computer is good but you can’t physically play with them. It will be good to see the teachers. I have really missed my creative lessons and the lunches!”
The back-to-school enthusiasm was shared by teachers, who relished the opportunity for direct contact with pupils. Teacher of Chemistry Ms Nesrina Muhara explains: “It was amazing to actually see my Y9s doing work right in front of my eyes; no more black screens hurrah! I got asked some questions from the non-usual people. I did three practicals and all the classes enjoyed actually moving around and mixing chemicals… so different to listening to me talk on Zoom!”
Ms Aine Mulkeen, Year 5 teacher added “I think they have coped extremely well with everything on Zoom. It’s lovely to see them all reunited and throwing themselves into school life again.”
A New ‘Normal’
Senior School pupils are adjusting to several changes in their school routine. The lateral flow Covid-19 testing process which began last week continues, everyone is wearing masks, there are regular sanitising stations, restricted movement around site and an enhanced cleaning regime.
Year 12 pupil Iman describes how she felt about returning to school: “I’m slightly nervous because we won’t be vaccinated for a while, but I miss social interactions and seeing friends.”
“It’s fine to be anxious”
Whilst there was a palpable sense of energy and excitement around the school, naturally there were mixed feelings from some of our pupils, teachers, and parents. The longevity of our physical absence from school, worries about exams and future prospects, and adapting to new changes, are just some of the understandable reasons for this apprehension.
As Head Adam Pettitt observes in his latest blog: “Whether it’s about friendships and fitting back in, or whether it’s about being well placed for exams now or exams to come, or whether it’s about the risk of infection. These are concerns which will affect each of our children differently: the fact there will be a spectrum of responses […] shouldn’t be a surprise: it’s fine to be anxious.”
Diversity & Inclusion Projects Officer, Dr Enya Doyle added: “As we embark on the next phase of this journey, we will continue to explore how best we can support our staff, pupils, and their families as well as the broader community; we will listen to each other’s stories and experiences and provide reassurance and resources where needed.”