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Alex's story

It is 12 months since the whole of the country entered the very first Lockdown due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was a situation no-one had ever experienced before – and something we hope we will never see again.  

In this series of real short stories, we hear from ordinary Wirral people about events that affected them this past year. 

This is Alex, the headteacher of St Joseph’s RC Primary School in Birkenhead, reflecting on a very different school year, but one still full of learning: 

“None of us could have foreseen the events of the last year unfolding in the way they have. I can still recall so clearly 5pm on Wednesday 18th March 2020 when I, along with my staff, watched the announcement that from Friday 20th, schools would be shut to all but children of Key Workers.  

“For the most part over the last 12 months, we have been living and working through this topsy turvy world of being ‘cl-open’, as it became known. Because we never actually closed - we remained open so that parents who were critical to the Covid response were able to continue to work; from NHS staff through to transport infrastructure, we continued to care for these children, along with those for whom a prolonged period away from school would have been too detrimental. 

“We were tasked with a role which placed schools as an equally critical sector in order to combat this virus. And we at St Joseph’s felt honoured and privileged to play our part.  

“This last year has affected us all in some way and we really have been living through history. A school only becomes a living entity when it is filled with the sound of hundreds of children and it is something we have missed so much.  

“We need to say a huge thank you to parents, and our wider communities, for stepping up. I do not for one second underestimate the difficulties they have faced - juggling their jobs, working from home, worries and anxieties and home teaching. I know they have done everything they can to ensure their children were safe, well and learning.  

“However, I know that some worry that this hasn’t been enough, that their children are now ‘behind’. On a personal level, I greatly disagree with the phrase ‘Catch Up’ and have banned it from our school! All children will have developed skills of resilience, technology, self-motivation, coping in times of crisis, self-regulation etc. There will no doubt have been difficult days, upsetting times, and worry, but piling on pressure with scare stories of being ‘behind’ won’t help them at all.  

“There is no arbitrary level to ‘catch up’ to. Children in previous generations have lived through world events and they were okay. There is no reason to believe that this generation won’t equally go on to excel in this new world. What we will do, is comfort them, build up their confidence and help them specifically with any issues, particularly with reading, writing and mathematics.  

“If we reframe ‘learning’ and don’t just confine it to English and Maths, I truly believe that the children will actually be ‘ahead’ - they will have developed skills, independence, resilience, empathy, hobbies, interests etc. We can all pick up with lots of the more traditional academic side, but not forget all these other worthwhile experiences.”

Want to read more COVID-19 stories?

Read Vaccination stories here.

Read James' story here.

Read Kirsty's story here.

Read Autism Together's story here.