LECA – Update from Principal Scott Gaskins

The academic year 2019/2020 will go down as the strangest in educational history. We started the year with such high hopes for Year 9, pushing on to choosing Options and then finishing the year ready to start their GCSEs. Then, on March 20th, we closed our doors and online/home learning started, and then slowly it became clear that we would not re-open until September; we wouldn’t see the majority of our students for six months! At that point, all sorts of people published articles and papers about the ‘recovery curriculum’ and how schools must consider the psychological effect of lockdown on students. We read all of them and then we planned how we would support students not only with their gaps in knowledge but also with their mental health. Little did we know how determined and resilient our students are…

On September 7th we welcomed our new Year 7s into LECA for the first time, taking the student numbers up to 460. They had had no transition days and as they walked across the campus in bright sunshine it must have felt so daunting for many of them. I also know, having spoken to a number of parents at the ‘gate’, that many of them looked and sounded more scared than their children. That’s not a criticism; it was perfectly natural. Nearly all of the transition work we would normally do in person had been done by email and nothing replaces face to face conversations. Needless to say Year 7 had a great first day. They had the whole school to themselves and most of the students I saw at 3pm were smiling and happy

The following day we welcomed back Year 10 and the next day we had all four year groups on site. This staggered approach seemed to work well. We had worked hard all through the summer to create a safe, COVID- secure environment and the systems, with a few small tweaks, worked really smoothly. The students, as always, behaved impeccably too and that made the whole thing work even better. In the summer, they had got used to one-way systems, face-coverings, sanitising and hand washing so the new routines were quickly adapted without a fuss. The government talked frequently about a ‘new normal’ and that is what it has become. The students, it has to be said, have been absolutely brilliant.

Teaching with COVID restrictions is hard. We’re not allowed to mix with the students and so we teach from behind a safety line at the front of the class. Old-school some might say. But we’re not an old school. We’re a modern school and we love working collaboratively with our students, working in groups, talking, debating, feeding back. Most of this can be done from the front but it’s not as good. We like to be ‘in amongst them’ but we can’t do that at the moment. Hopefully that time will come next year. All that being said, we’ve asked our teachers to be more creative than ever and they have really stepped up to the plate. The students are, for the most part, happy and enjoying being back at school. It is, after all, where they all belong.

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