Never has the country faced a challenge like Covid-19. During the 2020 pandemic the school experience is comparable to no other in our long 480-year history.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement in March 2020 Berkhamsted ran virtually at a moment’s notice. Everything the pupils normally experienced, in a physical setting, in and outside of the classroom transformed into a virtual setting in a new virtual world overnight; and repeated again in January 2021 with the national lockdown.
Events since March 2020 has brought home to us more than ever before that Berkhamsted is more than just a school where people attend. Berkhamsted is a web of relationships, it is a school with a strong set of values and a rich culture. It is these features together with the commendable resilience of our pupils and staff that have ensured the education and the community has thrived during these adverse times.
- Berkhamsted Parent
- Parent of Year 10 Berkhamsted Boys
The staff leadership team are continually reviewing Government guidelines and instilling a Covid responsible culture. Health and safety is the responsibility of everyone, and Berkhamsted pupils and staff all work in partnership to keep themselves and others safe.
Decisions are made and measures are implemented according to the latest information to minimise risk whilst continuing as much of the usual education enjoyed at Berkhamsted as possible. As such the detailed plans are ever evolving, however our basic ‘on site’ approach starts with the following:
Pupils, when on site, are grouped into year group bubbles and continue to have pastoral time with their House. They have continued all of their academic lessons in this way, while maintaining access to as much of the extracurricular activities as possible. This strategy aims to avoid mixing groups and unnecessary contact.
Pupils adapted well to many other measures introduced at the start of term in September 2020 such as arranging forward-facing desks and one-way systems which have become part of the ‘new normal.’
Over 100 hand sanitising stations installed in corridors and entry points across all our sites.
2x500ml and 2x packs of disinfectant wipes in every classroom, office and communal space.
A dedicated team of 62 cleaners working throughout Berkhamsted Schools Group which has grown by 20% since the start of the pandemic.
Anti-microbial fogging (Zoono) is carried out every weekend with each application offering protection for up to 30 days.
Recognition from the Health & Safety Executive. A recent inspection visit concluded Berkhamsted has excellent arrangements in place to control Covid-19. They recognised the adherence and efforts of staff and pupils and applauded the further enhancement to controls since the visit.
Our safety measures have helped ensure that the attendance rate for the 2020/21 year stands at 97% in Senior School including remote learning.
Returning to school amid a pandemic and the changes of moving from physical to virtual school have brought some a great sense of purpose, optimism and gratitude and for others it has been a time of anxiety and concern. Berkhamsted staff are very conscious of the different experiences each individual has had and have supported our pupils throughout the challenges that the pandemic has presented.
Our highly effective digital provision for staff and students means that we are confident in pivoting from face-to-face to remote pastoral support during closure or isolation. Individual and group support is available through live video calls and our vibrant online House communities, which allow the collegiality and warmth of our working relationships to flourish, even in lockdown. The School is well resourced to support pupils’ wellbeing and has created structures to enable staff to act when it is required. Since 2019 we have been investing in training our teachers in the Graydin coaching model. We will continue to do this because we have great confidence in its efficacy.
Staff have received in-depth training in how to help pupils cope with the anxiety they may feel when faced with the adversity of a pandemic and the restrictions that places on their lives. In addition, the specialist wellbeing team, consisting of the chaplaincy and counsellors are highly skilled and experienced at providing more specialised support in response to issues, including bereavement. The pupils can self-refer to either of these teams, although it is not uncommon for school and home to work in partnership to give a pupil the confidence to begin this type of conversation.
At the heart of our approach is the House system. The Head of House and House Tutors have always continued to work closely with pupils and their parents. In addition to the sense of belonging that membership of a House offers, the process of tutoring provides frequent opportunities to ‘check-in’ with each pupil while also allowing us to discuss issues within a small group. Additionally, the data that we glean from Steer’s Affective Social Tracking system augments our professional judgement in supporting individuals.
“From the comparisons we have amongst family and friends, Berkhamsted is offering head and shoulders above what other independent schools are offering and have helped to make our new home life more than bearable. Many leading independent schools are having virtually no teacher contact time, they are sending work to be submitted at the end of the day; what you are providing is really excellent.” Berkhamsted Parent, March 2020.
The events of 2020 have shown that the most innovative and open-minded schools have been the best prepared for adversity.
Embracing new technology, and a willingness to look outwards and forwards has established Berkhamsted as a leading school for innovation. Our core mission is to prepare young people for the ever-evolving world in which they will live, study and work.
The roll out of Microsoft Surface Digital Devices between 2018 and 2019 and adopting an approach to education that maximised their benefit ensured that pupils and teaching staff were one-step-ahead when the pandemic hit.
Moving from the physical classroom to the virtual classroom has been unproblematic with the infrastructure in place and the open-minded approach taken on by everyone. Preparations started weeks ahead of the first lockdown with a view that major restrictions were on the horizon. During the latest school closure in January 2021, teachers instantly moved resources back online to ensure an excellent learning experience for all of our pupils. Pupils follow their full timetable with a mix of live lessons and asynchronous learning, in line with those recommendations made in educational research. The virtual school not only continues the key areas of the curriculum but the innovative teaching engages and enthuses pupils with a wide range of exciting activities. Parents are able to find out more details regarding our remote education guidelines on the Parent Portal.
When the school sites are open, isolation or minor Covid symptoms have not caused any Senior School pupil at Berkhamsted to miss out on their education. From home, pupils access live lessons to stay included in the class through our hybrid learning which will continue to remain a key feature of our education plan for as long as required. Pupils can continue to submit work, receive feedback and contribute to class discussions remotely.
“I know this is new to everyone, but the speed at which your team have got to grips with the technology and the passion they are displaying is wonderful to see. The health and well-being of my children is everything to me and Berkhamsted is supporting that admirably at a difficult time. I have spoken to many other parents with children at different schools and I can assure you that not all private schools are achieving what you are.”
On the first day of #homeschooling pupils and staff utilised the technology to an extraordinary level. 1,433 online lessons took place and 35,584 files were viewed or edited. pic.twitter.com/1pqqnEsQxX
— Berkhamsted School (@berkhamstedsch) March 25, 2020
The School values of ‘Aim high with integrity, Be adventurous and Serve others’ are shared across the Berkhamsted family of schools. Children from Nursery through to Sixth and staff too are encouraged to embrace these ideals in everyday life.
During Covid-19 the Berkhamsted community have found it more important than ever before to serving others and help in a variety of ways.
Explore a highlights reel of many projects and initiatives the Berkhamsted community proudly supporting:
Covid-19 is preventing our usual opportunity to welcome prospective families on site for a tour. While these restrictions are in place we have developed a wealth of online resources to help you make an informed decision on your child’s next school.
Upon registering your initial interest you may explore:
You are supported throughout the journey by our dedicated Admissions team who are available each day (except weekends and Bank Holiday’s). The admissions journey is made easy with clear and regular communications from the day you register your interest in Berkhamsted School to the first day of your child’s educational journey at Berkhamsted.