Posted: 7th January 2021

I started my first assembly of a new term and a new year in a very positive and upbeat mood. This is not because I was still hankering after the last of the Christmas spirit, like an anglicised version of Nicht Nur zu Weinachtszeit, but rather because I wanted to impress upon the pupils that the sudden turnaround in their expectations was not something to fear but to embrace. Yes, I said to them, we find ourselves yet again in an online situation facing weeks of being physically separated and in a state of concern over the future of examinations, however things are different from March last year.

We now have a vaccine, and in the vein of that hackneyed anecdote we actually have three that have all come along at once, and this is cause for optimism. We know that there is a way out of this and I have asked the students to be positive about the fact that the solution is there. It requires only that the government act with fortitude and resolution to make it happen. I also reminded them about how outstandingly well they had done the last time we spent a term virtually teaching and learning. Leweston created the most spectacular of programmes with ‘trips’ to Italy and space, bake offs, sports’ days, music performances, house productions, plays and create/make events. All this, in addition to the somewhat more workman like continuation of studies and ensuring that the examination curriculum was completed. Staff and students (alongside parents!) rallied to the flag and Leweston community was second to none in its determination to make the most of a difficult situation.

Finding ourselves in the same place again, is therefore frustrating, and indeed on a societal level worrying, but it is not something that we cannot overcome. I discussed the very real need to pull together once again and to make our New Year resolution not one about cutting out chocolate or going to the gym every day (although I am doing that, as everyone now knows this – no pressure) but to help and assist their friends, family and neighbours by being upbeat and driven to succeed. There is a strong desire to help in all of us yet paradoxically a resistance to asking for help. We are concerned about looking hopeless or annoying to the person we ask and asking for help is one of the most difficult things for any one of us to undertake. This is precisely why I encouraged the students to do just that, and to reciprocate by giving generously of their time when asked for support in their own turn, because by putting themselves in a position of challenge they will learn all the more about their own strengths and weaknesses. They will learn how and when to recognise they need support and not to be ashamed of asking for it.

This determination to see our community thrive is why there is so much to praise in Leweston, even in these difficult times. I have no doubt that we should be optimistic for the future and the hope that we all feel in advent should not now be diminished because of this latest setback. It should instead be reinforced by the sure knowledge that our pupils, our community, has overcome a myriad of challenges and will do so once again.

Mr Paget-Tomlinson, Headmaster of Leweston Senior School

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