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Week Beginning 24th August 2020

Simon Mann
Simon Mann (4 posts) Principal View Profile

What a great start to the 2020-2021 academic year we have had. It has been wonderful to see how our new students have been welcomed by the returning students, making them already feel part of our community.

This week we look forward to our first Primary House Day of the year on Wednesday 26th August. All students in the Primary School will participate in this poetry themed day and should come to school wearing their House shirt, PE shorts and trainers.

On Thursday 27th August we look forward to seeing all Primary parents for our annual Primary Curriculum Evening. Two repeated virtual sessions will run for each Year Group, one at 5.00pm and the other at 6.00pm. Links to the Zoom sessions can be found in the email sent by Ms Lebihan on Friday and on the Parent Portal in the Year Group folders.

Our New Parent Virtual Coffee Mornings have also started, last Friday I, together with Mr Bull, Head of Secondary and the parent representatives from DCA, Rita and Karyn, had a lovely catch-up with the Secondary parents and this morning I enjoyed meeting the parents of our youngest students in EYFS together with the Primary team. I look forward to meeting new parents of students in Years 1 and 2 tomorrow and Years 3-6 on Wednesday. 

Thank you for helping us make the car pick up work as smoothly as possible. From tomorrow Tuesday, all parents collecting Year 1 students, and their siblings, as well as parents of children in Nursery and Reception, should collect them from the main steps, where the students will be waiting safely supervised by members of staff. Please turn left inside the main gate and drive round the car park to pick up your children at the steps. We hope this will help to speed up the car pick up process.
 
If you are collecting by car, please have your child’s name clearly displayed on a piece of A4 paper in the car window. It greatly helps to speed up the process if we can see the sign as you drive in so please do tape or blue tac the sign to the passenger side window or front windscreen.

As the school year is well and truly underway I wanted to take this opportunity to share our plans for how we are working with the three pillars of our community; our parents, our staff and our students.  Here in Singapore we are privileged to welcome our students back onto campus, however, between the limited after school programme, restrictions on group sizes and wearing of masks, all which I fully agree with, things have a slightly less connected feel. To recognise our new normal we have placed the well-being of our community at the centre of our opening and approach to the first term. Some of this design is based on the ‘soft-landing’ approach that was used as students returned to school in Christchurch, NZ after the earthquake.

Students

To begin the year the focus is settling back in, reconnecting, or connecting for new students, and getting back into the idea and feeling of being in school. To support this and as a way of processing the last few months we are running a psycho-social mini project where students of all ages (and staff) explore their Covid-19 experience. They are reflecting on how they got through it; what their supports are; identifying personal development; exploring challenges they faced; and importantly identifying the tools they have developed that will help with their resilience moving forward. This project is designed to promote connection between students and students and teachers; recognise shared experiences - a ‘getting to know you’ process; and collectively develop and 'tool box' of strategies that can be used to overcome challenges. The project is designed specifically to benefit relationships in the classroom particularly with our new students and teachers in mind.

Additionally the first few weeks will be spent focusing on returning to school and getting back into learning by easing into the next unit or topic and initially avoiding a focus on what gaps may exist due to the period of distance learning, we know for our students who focus heavily on their progress or grades there may be a greater deal of anxiety around this and our role is to reassure them that it is not as big a deal as they may think. We will be working on the issue of identifying and addressing any gaps in learning later this term. For our Year 13 IB Diploma students the IB Organisation has sensibly decreased the breadth of the syllabus for this academic year which helps a group of students who were probably feeling the most under pressure.

Families

Families could easily be the forgotten group and we are particularly aware of new families who often rely on schools to make personal connections, friendships and develop social circles when arriving in a new country. With group size limits discounting the possibility of face to face meetings we recognise there is a real risk of damaging our strong sense of community. This coupled with understandably higher levels of parental anxiety we are focusing on succinct and meaningful communication and online connection. New parent virtual coffee mornings are taking place with small groups to allow interaction with the school and other families who have similar aged children. We are also supporting the Dover Court Association arrange small meetings offsite; having families join us virtually to hear the Covid-19 presentations of their children and their children’s classmates; and delivering well being workshops for our families looking at how they can help themselves and their children through this period.

Teachers

Teacher experienced a significantly different inset week. It was stripped back and allowed large blocks of time to re-acclimatise to being back. This included time to reconnect with colleagues, plan in teams and set up classrooms. My principal's welcome for all staff was focused on personal well-being, promoting connection with others and relationship building. We explored simple actionable skills, approaches and attitudes that we can use to support our own well-being. This focus on personal well-being for our staff continues throughout until the Christmas break with regular CPD sessions focused on well-being. We hope this will help over this long term, especially in the knowledge that many, if not all of our staff, have not had a proper holiday. The soft landing for staff continues as we review what is key and most important in the coming months and accepting some of our initiatives may need to be put on hold or slowed in their introduction.

We recognise that as we start the year it may not be the normal exciting and energetic beginning to the academic year, however, we do believe we have put together programmes that will make our situation a positive learning experience for our whole community. This is our starting point and we shall be reviewing it as we go along.

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