Kate Walford, the Head Teacher of Hambledon Nursery School, contributed the Sunday Reflection this week.
As I reflect upon the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Hambledon Nursery School I would have to say that, overriding all else, is the fact that for the first time in its history it had to close, from Monday 23rd March to Friday 29th May 2020.
If I had tried to imagine this at the beginning of the year, it would have been unthinkable. But, as the worldwide Covid-19 crisis unfolded, it became apparent that the nursery would not escape the impact of the virus and it closed under lock-down.
We did not have children of key workers or vulnerable children for whom the nursery was required to remain open, so we entered what was a very strange and unique period of time.
A small team, comprising of myself as head teacher and the school secretary, Stephanie Campbell, worked behind the scenes to keep things ‘ticking along’. Setting foot into the nursery while it was closed to children, staff and parents was an eerie and at times deeply saddening experience. However, like so many community organisations in the village, we adapted to the unprecedented times that we found ourselves in.
We reached out to our families by sending out support via email correspondence, newsletters and regular updates. We pointed our families to where support for emotional well-being was available, and for the many other practical and financial issues that were being faced and continue to face over this testing time.
We organised videos where staff recorded personal messages to children and we created a song and story video to keep in touch with them while they played at home. We provided many suggestions about the sorts of activities and online resources for home learning that parents could access, such as going on scavenger hunts, joining ‘Jump Start Jonny’ for daily virtual physical activity sessions, and making table hammocks and dens. (See photos below)
Despite the difficulties, I feel that many parents and staff members, myself included, will look back at that time acknowledging what a truly remarkable period it was. Like an endless “snow day” that rolled over many weeks, it provided a wonderful opportunity to spend precious family time together; bonus time with our children engaged in creating, I hope, some very special and lasting memories of ‘lock-down’. A time spent slowing the pace down a little, playing in the sunshine in the garden, going for local walks and noticing that the birdsong was somehow amplified by the absence of traffic noise and planes flying overhead.
Then came the government announcement to reopen schools and childcare settings from 1st June. We set about implementing recovery planning and completing a detailed risk assessment to consider very carefully how we could reopen safely to a small cohort of children under new guidelines that included implementing social distancing measures, hand washing, respiratory hygiene and cleaning routines.
I am very pleased to be able to reflect finally upon our successful reopening. It has been wonderful to open our doors once again to a small, but very important number of our children, the nursery school leavers.
These children have returned after many weeks at home and shown what strength of character and resilience they truly have by settling back in quickly and effortlessly to the routine of nursery life. Quite a remarkable accomplishment for such young children, but so wonderful to see them experience delight at being back, able to play in the big expanse of the nursery garden and to see so many of their much missed friends and adults.
I would like to end this piece by reflecting on the lessons I have learned from the children themselves. A valuable lesson taken from these little people as they manage to focus, despite everything else going in the world at large, on the important tasks in hand…that of having fun, of being with those they enjoy spending time with, and of being so very happy and engaged in their play, in life and with their learning.
Dressed as a lion to record a song for the children from home during the nursery closure.