Who would ever have imagined last year when we began the new school year, the turn of events that would emerge? Even when lockdown measures were announced at the end of March, no one could have foreseen the true impact and longevity of the restrictions that were to impact life in the UK, and indeed across the world. Sessions 2019-20 certainly was a school year like no other!
At St Margaret’s, we are very fortunate to have a dedicated staff who worked tirelessly throughout the lockdown period to ensure the continuity of education through the provision of online learning and pastoral support for all pupils. We are so proud of how our pupils rose to the challenges of learning under these difficult circumstances. The school community pulled together during these months and the true community spirit of St Margaret’s shone through. We are immensely grateful to our parent body for their support during this time.
On Thursday 20th August we were overjoyed to have all our pupils return to school. The buzz and excitement on the first day of term was wonderful to be part of and the joy in pupils’ faces as they reconnected with friends was most heart-warming.
We know, however, the past five months have not been easy for anyone. Supporting physical and mental wellbeing is at the heart of our curriculum here at St Margaret’s and it has never been more important than now. It is timely that our first school nurse, Miss Rodger joined us in July and has already been busy providing support to the senior management team and the wider school community in ensuring a safe return to school for all. Miss Rodger is a registered paediatric nurse with extensive experience working with children, most recently at The Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital in the medical and oncology wards. We know that her knowledge and skills, in addition to her warm and welcoming approach, will be a great support to pupils and parents alike.
For this academic session, we are delighted to have secured wonderful additional space at our new annexe at 3-5 Albyn Place, and already this bright and spacious accommodation has been enjoyed by our senior girls. The substantial dedicated sixth year area and other teaching spaces with individual desks, allow ample space to ensure effective physical distancing within our already small classes. Located only two minutes’ walk from the front door of the school, the new space is an ideal solution to ensure that our pupils and staff have the additional space they need in these unusual times.
Before the start of term, pupils enjoyed watching orientation videos by our new Head Girl Team to help them make a smooth transition back into school with new health and safety protocols in place. These include enhanced hand hygiene arrangements and an intensified cleaning regime during the school day. Much thought and time has been devoted to putting appropriate risk-reducing measures into the planning of our daily timetables across the school; whilst some movement between senior school classes is inevitable, we have tried to limit movement, with each year group operating independently wherever possible. Nursery, junior and senior school are currently running as three distinct entities.
In order that teaching, learning and pastoral care may continue in all scenarios in the new school year, St Margaret’s has issued all pupils from 4 Junior upwards and teachers with Chromebooks. The new Chromebooks have been enthusiastically received and we know they will be a welcome addition to every St Margaret’s household going forward.
In these unusual times we find ourselves living through, we have been presented with many challenges, but with that have come wonderful and unique possibilities. We look forward to the new school year ahead and we will continue to monitor and refine school routines in line with national guidance to ensure that we provide pupils and staff alike with the safe and supportive environment which our school holds dear.