Letter to Lutterworth College Community
3 April 2020
Dear Lutterworth College Community
I started this 'end of term' letter at 2.30am on Wednesday morning this week. Unable to sleep as a consequence of possibly a stressful day, a late meal and falling straight asleep; but more probably because of the unanswered questions flowing in and out of my steam of consciousness. I think that I am running a slight temperature but, once checked, it is fine. Funny how you notice those things about yourself more now where once you just 'cracked on with it'.
Those unanswered questions though... ..What is going to happen to Year 11 & Year 13 results this summer? What about the Year 10 & Year 12 cohorts that will have missed so much learning and even the Year 9s? What about our 500 students in Year 7 & 8? What about our new Year 7s joining us in September? The first line of any headteacher job description states clearly that your primary purpose is to safeguard children, especially the most vulnerable - how do I do that if I can't physically see them. What will happen to them? What will the future look like for them? I wish I had the clarity of answer.
One of the characteristics of a good leader, so I'm told, is the ability to look like you have the answers even if you don't. Society, colleagues, parents & students will look to Headteachers for direction (to keep driving the bus, steering the ship - whatever analogy you want to use) through this journey of uncertainty. All you can do is your best; keep talking and communicating with everyone - don't hide but reach out, even if it is not your norm to do so.
One of the current headlines that, as my old mum would say 'gets my goat', is that 'schools are closed'. They are not closed. One definition of school provided by the Cambridge dictionary is 'the place where children go to be educated'. That 'place' does not have to be a collection of buildings on the Bitteswell Road in Lutterworth. It can be the breakfast bar, the bedroom desk, the garden table. But moreover, it is the 'place' where 'children go to' in their heads. The creative, amazing and astonishing minds of children and young people. That is a far more wonderful 'place' than some old and, to be honest in some respects, rather dilapidated school mobiles. It's a big ask now for parents to facilitate that place for children to learn but Lutterworth College is definitely 'open for business' to facilitate and support parents. That is a paradigm that we all need to shift to over the coming weeks and possibly months. However, I would ask that we keep Easter sacrosanct for children though - that we change the school activities to having as much fun as possible at this special time - I am asking all students, parents and teachers to log off from Show My Homework for two weeks from today and just take time for your own wellbeing where you can. The wheels of learning will start moving again soon enough afterwards and we all need to be refreshed for that.
The amount of email correspondence I am getting has tripled over the last few weeks and I have to sift carefully through it to find the new and the informative. The last thing I want is to bombard you with all the obvious steps and precautions at this time; I want the support we offer to our school community to be genuine and practical. We are not in a 'box-ticking' period; actions I believe speak much louder than words - that's why our physical school will remain open over the Easter period including the bank holidays to provide a safe-haven whilst there is need and uncertainty in the community. That’s also why we have harvested all of our Science Faculty’s PPE (gloves, googles etc.) and delivered them to the Leicester Royal Infirmary this week. Bigger picture.
On my wall at home there is a framed series of clippings from the Wellingborough Evening Telegraph, dated from 1967, about a three year old boy who slipped the shackles of his elder siblings one Sunday morning after Church and boarded a bus for the dizzying golden streets of Irthlingborough; I think it was just the first bus not an intention on my part to make my fortune in that particular East Northants town. Believe it or not, the bus departed with me on it (different times - I was the age that my youngest son, Ted is now and that I find incredible) until a kindly ticket inspector (again, different times) scooped me up and took me to his family home where he called the local Bobby.
This is an incident engraved in my mind, my earliest memory, and I still recall my dad's pastel blue Morris Minor 1100 (the traveller edition with the wooden slats, sliding windows and plastic bench seats that got unbearably hot on summer days and had no safety belts) pulling up outside the ticket inspector's house. I have no idea why I took that journey but I remember the bus ride vividly and all the things that happened that day. It is not a bad memory just an unexplained one. Other clippings in the same picture frame evidence the Vietnam War rumbling on and one particular disgruntled reader's letter entitled 'Those immoral miniskirts'. Things don't change really.
What I want to ensure for our young people at Lutterworth College is that they do not look back at this time as a bad or disruptive experience. It is an experience which, in many ways is unexplained, just like the reasons behind my bus journey that day, but we must find the positives and opportunities. And just like my dad did that day, not chastise the child for their actions but embrace them in a new found family love where we have time to care and look out for one another.
As we go forward into a different type of Spring term we will meet the challenges head-on at our school and do our utmost to protect the children in our care. We do not shirk these responsibilities behind the 'all schools are closed' headline. We are not closed at Lutterworth College; we are just learning in a different place. We have not lost our faith in these challenging times, although it is being sorely tested. The Directors and the leadership of the school want to send our heartfelt thanks to all staff, parents and students; I'm positive we will come out of this period as a stronger school community.