Coronavirus pandemic one year on: Highland headteacher reflects on a rollercoaster of a year and how the tireless commitment shown by staff drove him to tears
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John Rutter, of Inverness High School, reflects on how the pandemic has impacted on pupils, parents and staff:
After six years in post as headteacher of Inverness High School, I thought I’d experienced most of the challenges that outside forces could throw at a school.
Then along came Covid-19 and it was obvious that this would be unlike anything we’d faced before.
From March 2020 onwards, it’s all been a bit like a wild ride on the world’s most bizarre roller coaster.
Initially, the priority for our first go at lockdown learning was to reassure our senior pupils that all the work that had been put in over the previous years was not in vain and that they would get the qualifications they deserved.
Soon they, and everybody else, was learning at home and the staff at the school worked tirelessly to ensure that pupils had interesting and varied tasks that would keep them going through the months off school.
As the summer went on, we met more and more parents (at an appropriate distance of course), talked to them and sympathised with the troubles getting children and young people engaged and supporting them with remote learning.
There was a great development of mutual trust as we faced the problems together and worked to come up with individual solutions for individual pupils and their families.
School finished for the summer and there was a brief return to normality.
Plans were in place to get pupils back in August with two metre spacing in classrooms, then one metre spacing, than none at all.
Staff adapted well with the changing guidance.
As we returned to school in August, mask-wearing, increased sanitation and one-way systems were obvious indicators that things weren’t quite normal.
But our staff and pupils adapted well and we loved having our children back and talking to us face-to-face.
Then, come December, it was announced we would be back to lockdown learning again.
Many lessons had been learnt from the first period away and engagement with our pupils increased as we adapted what we did online to help them carry on with their learning.
For some of our pupils, we know that lockdown hasn’t been easy – many have had problems with home circumstances including health and wellbeing and welfare issues.
We shall work as hard as we can to help them recover over the coming months but we recognise there will be no quick fixes to some of the issues caused by recent events.
Yet despite the year we have had and the upset we have been through, I have great hopes for the future.
What has been obvious to me is that we have, at Inverness High School, the most dedicated and hard-working staff I have ever worked with.
Their tireless commitment to providing high quality learning through the most difficult times imaginable and, above all, their love and concern for our pupils has, at times, driven me to tears.
Neither could we have done all we have without the support of our parents, who have worked with us to ensure the continuing education of their children and young people.
As we go forward, I could not be more proud of my staff and of the wider community which we serve.