Here We Go Again
Headmaster’s Routh Assembly Address
Monday 9th November 2020
Good Morning to you all, and welcome back to the second half of the Term, albeit not quite the welcome I had hoped to give you, as you watch this via Zoom and in the company of your Tutors, rather than all together in Routh.
This week should have seen us join together in collective Remembrance Day services in Routh assemblies. We obviously can’t hold them anymore, but can I begin by saying that the School can and will still mark the solemn occasion on the official day, as we usually do. Just as I don’t want us to lose sight of our traditions and routines at Bromsgrove during the lockdown, neither should we neglect our wider obligations and observances.
That means that we will pause at the exact moment of the anniversary of the Armistice of the First World War, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, (which is this Wednesday at 11:00am).
A short service will be held outside, under the flagpole, including the playing of the Last Post and observing a moment’s silence to remember the 240 Old Bromsgrovians who died in both World Wars.
If you wish to show your respects, you are welcome to do so, properly spaced along the drive. Even if you do not, please respect the moment and keep quiet on the campus for those few minutes.
As I say, not quite the way I was intending to welcome you all back for the second half of Michaelamas, but as you know, the Government has imposed another period of lockdown upon the country until the 2nd December. Thankfully, this time schools are allowed to remain open and your education can continue uninterrupted. However, there are some new rules that we must now follow, on top of the restrictions that you were already coping with so well last term.
I will speak about them in a moment, but as for Routh assembly, and other larger gatherings such as Chapel and year group lectures, although they are still technically acceptable under the guidelines, it does not seem in the spirit of the new restrictions to continue to hold them during lockdown.
I don’t like to cancel them, because I believe that gatherings like that are one of the bonds that give us cohesion as a School. Moments in the weeks when we can share experiences and celebrate each other’s successes. Coming together in Routh and Chapel are reminders that, outside of your individual classes, teams and Houses, you are part of something larger, united as one School. Nevertheless, larger gatherings don’t really seem right when the rest of the nation is locked down, so we will forfeit them for the next few weeks.
There are some other changes too. You still need to carry on being vigilant as you did before the break. Use the sanitiser stations around the School. Follow the one-way systems. Be conscious of separation and social distancing. Most importantly, as I said in our very first Routh back in September, don’t just blindly follow the rules. Understand them.
With that in mind, you should now understand that the new lockdown brings some new requirements. It has been imposed because the virus is spreading quickly when people gather in close proximity and in large groups.
Schools have been allowed to remain open because, as you know, the impact of COVID-19 on most young people is fairly minor. However, the spread amongst you is getting higher. Therefore, the new regulation says that we are all to wear face masks when we are in communal areas around the School.
Not necessarily in classrooms, where there is ventilation and spacing and not too much talking. You can still wear them there of course, but we don’t want them to inhibit your learning. To stop you answering questions or being heard. And they need not be worn in when you are on your own in private spaces, at your desk in a Day House study, or in your room, if you are a Boarder. And not as you walk around outside either. We are blessed with a large, spacious campus with lots of outdoor areas where masks aren’t necessary. Although again, if you wish to keep one on in those places, you may do so.
Where you must wear a mask is in communal areas. The corridors of buildings as you come and go from class. Entering and leaving the Dining Hall (you can obviously take them off to eat). Your social areas during the day; the Library, Arena, Sports Hall, Routh. You need to wear a mask in Changing Rooms too, although obviously not when you then play sport.
For some, this will be no real change at all, for you have been wearing a mask since School started. For others, it is a necessary routine you need to get into. Your House Parents and Tutors will talk to you more about the importance of washing cloth masks daily and disposing of single-use ones safely.
There will also be some amongst you who are unable to wear a mask for medical reasons. Again, your House Parents will explain how you go about getting a School exemption card to be able to show to teachers who ask. Remember also that there are some pretty simple rules about what is acceptable -follow.
The wearing of masks in communal areas is the main change during this month-long lockdown. There are a few other minor restrictions; the School shop is now only open to pupils, and there will be a ban on visits and visitors, for the month. Otherwise, we carry on as we have before, following the guidance and looking out for each other.
At our last Routh before the break, I said to you that we had survived. I meant, in the widest sense, that our School spirit and sense of identity had endured, despite the restrictions that the pandemic was imposing upon us. But I also noted that we had survived the first two months without a COVID case in the Senior School and I said that was undoubtedly down to you. Your maturity and willingness to do the right things.
I have every faith that you will continue in the same manner now. However, the longer this goes on, the more likely it is that we will get a case and that some of you may need to self-isolate, not because you are unwell but as a precaution because you were in contact.
If that happens, there will be no need to worry. We are well-prepared and can switch easily to teaching by Zoom as we did last Summer if needs be. And, like last Summer, online learning will work because of your commonsense and commitment.
But not yours alone. The final thing that I want to say to you all as we commence this second Half Term under even tighter COVID restrictions is this. Unlike millions of pupils in this country and around the world, your education is continuing despite the disruption of the pandemic because of the dedication of the people who teach you. Your journey is smoother because they are paddling harder than ever.
You won’t see the half of that. The extra preparation for online lessons, the hours spent covering colleagues when they are ill, the increased supervision when you can’t be in your Houses, most of that is invisible to you. And you won’t see the personal pressures they are also facing, either. Juggling their own childcare arrangements during lockdown. Worrying about elderly parents. Concern for partners facing redundancy because of the closure of businesses.
There is a huge amount of pressure on some of your teachers at the moment, yet you won’t see any of it because of their professionalism and dedication to the School. To you. You may not see it, but I ask you to respect it. As we press on towards Christmas, as your lessons and exam preparations and co-curricular pursuits continue almost as normal, despite:
• bureaucratic bubbles
• a sea of masks
• oceans of sanitiser,
please never forget the thanks that you owe to those people who are making it so.
Because when the Senior School finally stops drowning in all these restrictions and the flood of the pandemic recedes, your education will have survived intact thanks to two things;
• your own mature conduct
• and the dedication of those who teach you.
Just as I acknowledge the part you are playing in keeping us buoyant, please make sure that you show your gratitude to those who are keeping you afloat every day.
Thank you and have a good term everyone.