Last week was certainly a huge challenge for our staff and students as they settled into “a new way of doing things”.
May I thank all the parents who took time out of their busy homeschooling/working days over the last two weeks to write to us and provide feedback. Positive comments have really provided happy moments for our staff in what is a fairly bleak media picture. Suggestions for how we can improve our offer have all been collated and, alongside the feedback from our student and parent surveys and professional conversations with our staff, we will now look to evolve our offer over the coming weeks. I ask for your patience in this as we adapt our offer to best fit the students’ needs.
Moving forward our focus will be on wellbeing and mental health for both our staff and students. Teachers across the world enjoy a wonderful working environment with like-minded colleagues who are always there for them.
We live a busy life during term time often working late into the evening and at the weekends but always in the knowledge that during the school day we will be with our colleagues in the staff room and with our students enjoying the happy classroom environment we have worked so hard to create. At present this is all on hold as we operate our Virtual School experience and for many of our single staff, possibly with families many thousands of miles away this can be daunting.
We have already begun to put in place measures to support them through the coming months with an international Employee Assistance Programme providing confidential telephone counselling by trained psychotherapists and counsellors in both Polish and English. This is in addition to Iza Banasikowska, our school counsellor and trained psychotherapist who is actively supporting both students and staff via video conferencing already. We have maintained the services of our school nurses at our Limanowskiego site again to support any of our staff who may need to visit a healthcare professional for advice and want to avoid a crowded clinic in the city.
For our students we have begun to consider how the Virtual School Experience we are providing can be modified to best support their mental health and emotional wellbeing over the coming months. One example is the removal of daily set homework for years 7-9.
Many parents have fed back to us that children have been struggling to complete all of the work we have been setting in class time and they also shared concerns about the amount of time the students were spending in front of a computer screen. Therefore we have adapted our policy here to ask staff to set engaging projects and different homework that wherever possible gets a child away from their screen and allows them time to be creative. I understand a very small minority of parents feel that this is lost work time and that children should be set standard homework tasks. I ask that you caution against this approach given that the situation we currently face will likely last for many months and the emotional well-being of our students will be tested to the limits. We need to be mindful of this and support our learners through these difficult times.
You will be aware that the Polish Government have announced that all schools are now to be closed until April 10th. Our Easter holiday will begin as planned at midday on Thursday 9th April. For our Year 11 and Year 13 students the Easter break will be their final opportunity to revise for the summer exams that we will be holding ‘virtually’ in lieu of public IB and IGCSE examinations which have been cancelled (Mrs Fox writes more about this in her blog today).
For all other year groups we will not be setting school work over the Easter break but instead we will be providing a ‘pack’ of mental health and wellbeing activities and ideas for our students to ‘dip into’ as they wish over the break.
More about this will be sent to parents before the end of term and shared with students too. Whilst a few parents have written to us to ask if we could shorten the Easter break we have looked into this and in conversation with our other NAE schools around the world and other school contacts we are all in agreement that given the potential length of next term’s isolation we need to ensure both students and staff are recharged and prepared for the term ahead.
Instead of ‘school work’ we will be encouraging children to focus on activities that will allow them to collaborate with their friends and family, possibly developing new skills and enjoying the opportunity to learn and rest away from the rigour of a timetable. One fantastic example of this is a newly established student newspaper which I received this morning in my inbox from a group of Secondary students.
They started this initiative when the campus closed and it has allowed ten friends to work together, sharing ideas and producing a fantastic end goal.
The student paper is called “Disclosure” and I believe it will be circulated to all secondary students and all parents next week via our marketing email team. Congratulations to Editor-in-Chief Claudia and everyone involved in the project, an excellent first edition and I look forward to reading more in the future.
Please also see my video message below.
Wishing everyone a healthy and safe weekend,