As I write my final blog post of the academic year, it is hard to imagine life beyond St. Paul’s, but that is certainly what awaits me, and a ‘new normal’ that none of us could have imagined just a few months ago.
I hope that you will agree that we have undergone quite an educational revolution in the last three months. Moving to 100% virtual learning almost overnight, and seeing just how important our ICT investment has been to support pupils and staff as they have worked from their homes. It has saddened me to hear plans of ‘back to work’ in the press – as they have not given credit to the incredible staff teams who have supported children to maintain their continuity of education throughout this quarantine period. We have certainly all been working (harder than normal!) and so whilst it might be ‘back to school’ it is certainly not a resumption of work, since we never stopped!
At the start of ‘lockdown’ the concerns from all sides were primarily about the educational offer for pupils. With time, we have come to realise that it is connectivity, community and wellbeing, which are the prime concerns in our online lives, rather than content. Those of us who have faced a period living alone during quarantine, especially those who are not used to a solitary life, have perhaps found it harder than others. I certainly realised the importance of Betsy, the beagle, when living alone in São Paulo to keep me exercised and feel connected. Our daily walks were crucial for my wellbeing, and as we walked around the Jardins area, often encountering members of the school community on their own perambulations, the lion community spirit really showed through. We felt more connected than usual.
My new normal will be post-Lion, in a provincial cathedral city school in the south west of England. Exeter is a relatively small city, certainly after São Paulo, and Exeter School has a long and proud tradition and a fabulous community, which I am keen to get to know and integrate with, as I have done in Brazil. Arriving as a new head offers many exciting challenges – and certainly arriving to a school which is getting back on its feet after a pandemic is not something most heads will have had the chance to do before. But, I have learnt much in Brazil, I have developed my skills as a leader and an educator, been able to face new challenges head on, and, hopefully have enough strategies in my toolbox to face whatever challenges Exeter will bring.
My time as a part of the in-situ Lion community comes to an end, but as we all know, Lions are for life, and I will now (and always) be an Old Paulean. As I look forward, what a wonderful experience I have had, and what amazing Lion-memories I am taking with me. Thank you all!