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A Day in the Life

From the desk of the Head Master 18 March 2020

Making sense of contradictions.

Over the past few days many of our boarders have gone home to Hong Kong and China. With the outbreak now contained there, increasingly strict quarantine measures are coming in for those returning, and little over a week on from asking parents to keep their sons in the school I fully understand their wish to get them home. How different from the picture at February half term where we advised all our boarders to stay in the UK.

On Monday the UK government position on coronavirus shifted. We were told to work from home where possible, avoid unnecessary travel and follow advice on social distancing. Pubs, clubs and theatres became places to avoid. But schools were to remain open.

Over the past few days we have been trying to make sense of the inherent contradictions in this advice. Geoff Barton, the secretary of ASCL (the Association of School and College Leaders) put it well in the aftermath of a meeting held at the Department for Education. He told us that we are performing a civic duty in keeping children in schools for as long as possible. It sounds quite grand but it is apt for these times. While children are at school, their parents can continue to go to work – and these parents include the doctors, nurses and other NHS workers who are under such pressure. As well as continuing to educate the children, we are helping to keep going an NHS and an economy hit by the shock of recent events.

The advice from the government warned people with underlying health conditions to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures. As such we have been trying to keep things running here, with staff in this position starting to work from home, and inevitably more cover lessons going on. This is in addition to those who have to self-isolate due to a member of the household showing symptoms, and those who might be ill from the usual round of colds and flu at this time of year. I told our staff not to be heroes – to follow the advice and stay home if they had the symptoms or any underlying condition that might make them vulnerable. I am sure that you will share my appreciation of all the staff who are working hard to keep things going in these uncertain times.

All of our staff are working hard, including our cleaners who are going beyond their normal jobs to ensure that we are reducing the likelihood of the spread of germs. I am reminded of the story of the janitor at Mission Control in Houston. In 1962 President Kennedy visited NASA and on his tour he introduced himself to the janitor and asked what he was doing.

“Well, Mr President,” said the janitor, “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”

We all have to do our bit in the weeks and maybe months ahead. Follow the advice, keep washing your hands, keep your spirits up, look out for each other.