The start of any new academic year focuses the mind on the exciting year ahead, and this year’s planning has included facing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic head on. It has been a pleasure to welcome back all Birkenhead School children and students to the School site these last few weeks, which has once again come alive with the sound of learning within year group ‘bubbles’.
By Mr Paul Vicars, Headmaster
Children are adaptable and resilient by nature, and we could not have been prouder of their committed approach, and that of staff, during last term’s remote learning phase: indeed, many have truly flourished. But the School’s vision is to inspire each and every student, and not just within the classroom, nor purely through external exam grades. Driving academic excellence for all students will always remain at our core, but equally important is the wider curriculum that typifies a Birkenhead School education – those sporting, creative and ‘out of comfort zone’ opportunities that grow a child’s confidence, character and perspective so key to success and happiness in later life.
It is why we have approached the current Government restrictions on co-curricular activities not as a barrier to participation, but as an opportunity to be creative, to reassess our offering, and to increase our resourcing of this key area of School life.
In sport, the current staff roll already boasts many with international playing and coaching experience. However, from the start of this term, we have added further to the ranks, increasing the students’ access to coaches aligned with England Lacrosse and with the performance pathways associated with clubs from both the Rugby Premiership and the Netball Superleague. The first Saturday morning of term saw hundreds of students training within their year group bubbles both on site and on the McAllester playing fields.
The importance of physical activity and wellbeing begins in Prep where pupils participate in sport and PE several times a week within the standard curriculum, alongside further after-school sports sessions. To this has been added an even more extensive Clubs programme than usual: whether you are a keen climber or budding scientist, an actor or dancer, or prefer Lego, board games, music, multi-media or nature, there’s a club for you at Birkenhead School.
In music, the adaptation to the ‘new normal’ means the Prep will offer three orchestras this term, not one. Socially distanced year group choirs and instrumental groups will supplement the usual peripatetic lessons within Seniors, and the Sixth Form will continue to offer the ensembles and small music groups so important in enabling musicality to flourish: and all within guidelines outlined by both the Government and national associations. Our Sunday Evensong offering, somewhat unique within a day school environment, presents its own challenge, but will hope to resume during the Michaelmas term with a Sixth Form choir leading the worship.
This summer saw the sad passing of Sir Ken Robinson, educationalist, author and supporter of creativity within the lives of children. It is a philosophy that includes the celebration of intelligence taking many different forms, and is an ethos that runs through a series of integrated programmes at Birkenhead School: ‘Enrich and Explore’ in Years 1 & 2; ‘Future Skills’ in Years 3 to 6, and subsequently ‘Beyond the Curriculum’ in Years 7 & 8. Here, students might learn skills as diverse as sign language to mindfulness, problem solving to philosophical enquiry, etiquette lessons to theatre skills, and we have recently drafted in an accomplished National Theatre actor and choreographer to deliver this later module.
The coming weeks will pose children and the schools they attend with multiple and complex challenges. But if we choose to embrace these hurdles with a positivity focusing on what is important to a child’s development: opportunity, academic and wider challenge, encouragement and balance, then they will emerge from this period of their schooling more resilient, resourceful and skilled than ever before. We aim for this to be our positive legacy during a time of considerable change and uncertainty.
Wednesday 14th October 6.00pm - 8.00pm
During the evening you will be able to:
- Find out what sets Birkenhead School apart from other schools.
- Take part in live webinars and Zoom calls with members of staff.
- Hear from our students.