This, or a similar topic, may well be your child’s first homework task of the new school year and, I am sure, often makes interesting reading for teachers. Several years ago – well before Covid 19 made working from home the norm – I was introduced to a chap at a drinks party and for some reason we got on to the topic of children’s homework. My new acquaintance made me laugh: having been given the writing topic “What my parents do”, his son had written that his father “sits at his computer all day in his dressing gown”. (It wasn’t until later that I discovered I had been talking to an Oscar-winning screenplay writer).
This year, “What I did in my summer holiday”s essays might make repetitive reading for teachers; summer 2020 has been a Staycation for most and hearing about someone getting into an airplane or crossing an international boarder has become something of a novelty. My own holidays have involved 4Fs: family, friends, fresh air and France – not much to complain about there.
Teachers at boarding schools, meanwhile, have been recharging their batteries after the demands and complications of last term. Despite the expansive boarding school buildings throughout the country lying eerily empty for most of the term, teachers were kept busy ensuring that school life continued at its usual snappy pace from April to July – albeit it at a distance.
With the help of online platforms such as Google Meets and Zoom, boarding schools adapted swiftly. From Morning Chapel to end of day homework clinics, boarding schools maintained a varied and rich timetable for every pupil. The effort put in by teachers, their energy and initiative that I witnessed from schools’ sometimes daily emails was consistently impressive. Alongside regular, real-time full academic lessons, pupils were able to continue their extra-curricular activities. Chess club, science projects, cooking skills, photo competitions, art exhibitions, kite making, sports challenges, video film making…..the options were as comprehensive as ever – and often even more inventive. As the mother of one French pupil who followed an online timetable for the term said, “l’école a organisé les choses admirablement bien.”
Of course, everyone is now very keen to get back together on site, put aside their computer screens and enjoy human camarderie once again. Staff have been working tirelessly to put into place the current stringent regulations required in order to guarantee all pupils’ health and safety as they return to school. Most schools have signed up to the Boarding Schools Association Covid Safe Charter which gives clear guidance of the strict measures to be followed – made easier to adhere to thanks to the advantage private boarding schools have of spacious buildings, extensive grounds, small class sizes and low pupil to teacher ratios.