Since the beginning of Lockdown 3.0 and the return to online teaching and learning, a full timetable of lessons and tutorials has been livestreamed to girls’ homes across the globe both in real time and as recorded lessons for those in different time zones. Not only teaching and learning however, staff and pupils found some amazingly creative and inspiring ways to connect and keep in touch – from virtual sports fixtures against other schools and charity relay events, to a variety of virtual music, sporting and drama challenges and online lectures and workshops.
Now the plan for the remainder of the Lent term is to return to a hybrid provision with the majority of girls back in the classrooms and boarding houses but with all lessons, tutorials and activities also being available online for the girls who are not yet able to return to School. As part of the planning process, the Headmistress and Leadership team have run Q&A sessions with UK and overseas parents to give them the opportunity to ask questions about their daughters returning to school.
Headmistress, Mrs Emma McKendrick said,
I cannot tell you how delighted we are to be able to welcome our girls back on site this term. It is very much my hope that Monday 8 March will mark the start of the road back to normal operations. I have my fingers firmly crossed! Keeping everyone safe remains our key objective and no unnecessary risks will be taken. We want and fully intend to enjoy being together as much as is possible within safe parameters.
Since the Prime Minister’s announcement that UK schools should re-open on 8 March, the teaching, operations and support staff have been working hard on the plans to re-open the site and prepare to welcome girls back. Following the successful blueprint of the Michaelmas term, there will of course be extra hygiene and cleaning measures along with social distancing, additional space provided by marquees, one-way systems, mask wearing extended to classrooms and communal areas, testing and isolation facilities. A new feature of School life will be the introduction of the twice weekly lateral flow testing system for all girls and staff which has already started and will be implemented by our Health Centre staff.
Girls will once again live and learn in their allocated bubbles within their boarding house and will be limited in their social interaction outside those bubbles. Temporary changes have been made to the Upper School boarding structure to create distinct boarding houses for each year group in a horizontal structure in order to keep the whole community as safe as possible and to meet the pastoral needs of the different year groups.
Throughout the pandemic, the overall approach has been to focus on what is possible rather than what is not and that ethos will continue over the coming months. The technology which has enabled us to connect for virtual assemblies, book clubs, lectures and all nature of events will continue to support every aspect of School life over the coming months until it is possible to gather together in person once again. The return to school does however make a huge difference to the teaching of the Creative, Performing Arts and Sports – drama and musical theatre lessons will be able to take place with appropriate safety measures in place. All sports lessons will take place outside and the PE Department are planning to teach both winter and summer sports this term to maximise the opportunity for everyone to be involved. Major events such as Young Musician of the Year and House Drama & Dance will take place in a virtual format alongside the usual busy schedule of lectures, collaborations with other schools, competitions, workshops, clubs, societies and fundraising activities which make up the rich tapestry of Downe House life.Find out more about the exceptional range of co-curricular activities on offer at Downe House
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