Every year, UNESCO celebrates its International Day of Education on 24 January, a date set in stone by the UN General Assembly to honour the role which education plays in world peace and development. It was somewhat ironic, therefore, that most of us woke up to the arrival of the one thing that usually closes schools in the UK – heavy snowfall – at a time when so many of us are utterly desperate to see the country’s educational establishments reopen as physical institutions.

A further twist in this unwelcome drama came in the form of a front-page story in yesterday’s Sunday Times expressing doubt that UK schools would re-open in full after half-term. Government Ministers, including the Health Secretary, did the usual round of morning interviews, many of which are reported widely in the British national papers today, including Matt Hancock’s comment to Andrew Marr that he “hoped” that schools would reopen after the Easter holidays.

As has become lamentably predictable throughout this pandemic, possible details about schools and education have featured in the press first, leading to unhelpful conjecture, speculation and anxiety, only for things to be clarified at a later date via a ministerial announcement or an update from the Department for Education, many of which seem to be published around 11.30pm on a Friday night. Week 3 of the Lent Term appears to be playing true to form.

This modus operandi has posed numerous challenges for schools, but this pales into insignificance when compared to the challenges with which our pupils have had to cope since March last year. Today’s young are often described pejoratively as ‘snowflakes’ but the resilience, adaptability, and good grace which our children have displayed in the most challenging of circumstances over the past 10 months has been anything but flaky. They and their parents now deserve both a safe return to school as soon as possible and also clarity about the plans for reopening. I suspect I speak for us all when I hope this will be forthcoming in the days ahead.

This time last year, Mrs Lynch and her team were putting the finishing touches to our inaugural Community Wellbeing and Mental Health Day which so many parents attended alongside their children. It was a truly wonderful event, a real highlight in what was otherwise an annus horribilis, and I would like to thank Mrs Lynch for pivoting so brilliantly in 2021 to a fully online festival offering available via the main College website here. Details about how to access the festival of talks have already been sent to parents.

Highlights include Fireside Talks from Will Carling (this evening) and Annabel Croft, Dr Aric Sigman talking about the impact of screen time on mental health and Emma Gleadhill speaking about teenage relationships during lockdown. There are also some truly inspirational talks from recent OWs about their personal experiences.

If you are anything like me, however, you will be acutely aware of how much time you and your children are spending on devices currently. To this end, as well as encouraging you all to watch Dr Sigman’s talk, we will also be holding a ‘screen free’ morning next Monday. Wellingtonians will still have work to complete in all their academic lessons, but teachers will ensure that this is delivered in a way which allows them and us to have a morning away from screens. Instrumental and LAMDA lessons will still take place online throughout the day, but ‘live’ online lessons will only resume on Monday afternoon for periods 5 and 6.

Having said that, there is one last online film I would urge you to view. If you haven’t yet watched the drone footage of our beautiful College in this weekend’s snowfall, please follow the link here. It is a source of sadness that more members of the Wellington Community were not here to enjoy it in person, but we look forward to reigniting the full buzz of the College when our pupils and their families return.

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