The ‘new normal’ isn’t found here!

Posted on 16th Apr 2021 in School News, Prep Schools Guide

Richard Whymark, Head of King’s Ely Junior, on why standards and expectations are as high as ever despite a challenging year.

Every instinct in us suggested that it was time to curl up and hibernate when news of the burgeoning pandemic started to spread in early 2020. However, being a global boarding community meant that we wanted to keep an outward gaze across the oceans to our wider school family spread far across the world. Parents living abroad or at a distance, forces personnel on tours and those posted overseas for work purposes all looked to us to provide a safe haven and reassurance at a troubled time. Meeting those expectations is normal for a busy Junior boarding school such as ours, and the years spent rehearsing and building solid scaffolding to safeguard the wellbeing of the children at our school showed in the robust responses to the crisis. We did “our thing” and sheltered the school community from harm and helped the children to embrace the challenges we were encountering. To do less than our best by the children or to fall short of our promises to families, simply were not options.

Lessons continued, activities were offered, clubs went on, trips took place, traditions were respected, and innovations were abundant to keep the experience at school as rich as possible. Despite some spells with the children at home due to lockdowns, school continued remotely and the support mechanism beneath all that took place was the boarding tradition of our school. Strong routines, a sense of togetherness and mutual reliance all helped to engender a productive and sustained momentum for the children wherever they were.

Coming back together was a joyful and uplifting moment of course. But not for the reasons you may think. Yes, it was great to see friends and staff reunited but it was the restoration of the communal pulse which was so tangible. The palpable feeling of a community which was reaffirming it was alive was key. That liveliness and buzz comes from the twenty-four-seven provision, the care surrounding each person, the life of the school being interwoven with the fabric of cathedral life and the relentlessness of activity and opportunity. Yes we have learned new things, yes we were tested, yes we were horrified by painful losses but what kept us strong and inspired us was not some new normal… it was the pre-existing normal, the normal which acts as comforter and friend to our boarders and day children.

Normal is good. In fact, normal is great! Please come and see us to learn how great ‘normal’ can be for your child.

This article first appeared in John Catt's Preparatory Schools 2021, which you can view here: