Thriving through Covid-19: Heatherton

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The Berkhamsted Group Community and Covid-19

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 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 this has been repeated again in January 2021 with the national lockdown.

Events since March 2020 have brought home to us more than ever before that Heatherton is more than just a school where people attend. It 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.

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I was impressed that the school acted so quickly to move the girls onto Teams. It greatly reduced the stress levels in my house when my daughter could reliably access her work!

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- Heatherton Parent, March 2020

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I would just like to say a really big thank you to all the staff. Everyone has been so helpful and done absolutely everything in their power to make this difficult time as easy for our girls as possible. We can still feel the Heatherton spirit every day.

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- Heatherton Parent, March 2020

On site safety first

The staff leadership team are continually reviewing Government guidelines and instilling a Covid responsible culture. Health and safety is the responsibility of everyone, and 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 Heatherton as possible. As such, the detailed plans are ever evolving, however our basic ‘on site’ approach starts with the following:

  • a requirement that people who are ill or showing symptoms to stay at home
  • robust hand and respiratory hygiene
  • enhanced cleaning arrangements including regular fogging
  • active engagement with NHS and the school’s own track and trace system
  • formal consideration of how to reduce contacts wherever possible to minimise the potential for contamination so far as is reasonably practicable
  • social distancing rules and year group bubbles
  • providing an environment that feels as close to ‘normal’ as safely possible while the pupils can continue to enjoy and benefit from a Berkhamsted education

Pupils, when on site,  have been grouped into year group bubbles and continue to have pastoral time with their Form Teachers and a weekly assembly with the Headteacher over Microsoft Teams. Academic lessons have continued as normally as possible, with the main difference being that the pupils have moved around the school less frequently to avoid coming into contact with other age groups.

By upholding this stringent attitude to safety, the school will help ensure that levels are kept as low as possible within the community.

 

Over 100 hand sanitising stations installed in corridors and entry points across all our sites.

 

 

 width=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 98.5% at Heatherton including remote learning.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

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. Heatherton staff are very conscious of the different experiences each individual has had during the various times and have supported our pupils throughout the challenges the pandemic has presented.

The School is well resourced to support pupils’ wellbeing and has continued to be well-placed to enable staff to act when it is required with a robust pastoral programme in place. The pupils are encouraged to talk to their Form Teachers and the Head of Pastoral Care when concerns arise, and staff are trained 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. Each week, every Pre-Prep pupil has a 1-1 for reading, and Years 3-6 have 1-1 sessions with their form tutor’s, providing further opportunity to discuss any worries or problems that they may have, in confidence. With form time twice a day, the staff are continuously checking in and creating a safe space for the pupils to have fun and chat to their friends online. Additionally, the staff meet 3 times a week to ensure that the online learning provision in place is of optimum quality and that all pupils are continuing to relish life at Heatherton.

Heatherton is also able to make use of the specialist wellbeing team at Berkhamsted, consisting of the nurses, chaplaincy and counsellors, who are highly skilled and experienced at providing more specialised support in response to issues, including bereavement. The school and home, work in close partnership to give pupils and their families the confidence to seek support when it is required.

Online Safety

Online safety education is included in the curriculum, in order to foster age-appropriate autonomy, digital resilience and ethical digital participation. It is the space where safeguarding, technology, community, education and wellbeing all converge. The School considers our approach to be both pro-technology and pro-boundaries and staff always carefully plan teaching and learning activities involving digital resources, ensuring that they have thoroughly tested them for suitability and functionality. Heatherton also offers a ‘Digital Wellbeing’ seminar for parents from an expert external speaker.

Teaching and Innovation both in the classroom and remotely

“It seems as though the girls have been given very similar work to normal, and they do not seem to worry that it’s delivered differently via various forms of media. I think Heatherton has coached them with a great sense of independence, that they can sit down, tackle something without too much input, and do a good job at it. Developing a timetable, structure & ground rules has been crucial, and has worked.” – Heatherton 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 Heatherton 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.

Moving from the physical classroom to the virtual classroom in March 2020 was unproblematic with the infrastructure in place and the open-minded approach taken on by everyone. Preparation started weeks ahead of lockdown with a view that major restrictions were on the horizon. During the latest school closure of 2021, once again, teachers instantly moved resources online to ensure an excellent learning experience for all of our pupils.  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.

The Heatherton virtual classroom includes:

  • 3 live lessons via Microsoft Teams a day
  • Full curriculum timetable
  • 1-2 non-live lessons a day
  • Continued Individual Music lessons
  • 2 form times a day
  • Form Teacher support for the pupils and family
  • Weekly 1-1 pastoral chats
  • Work set on Notebook between lessons with feedback given
  • Online assemblies
  • Online P.E lessons

When the school site is open, isolation or minor Covid symptoms have not caused any pupil at Heatherton to miss out on their education. From home, pupils have access to live lessons to stay included in the class through hybrid learning which will continue to remain a key feature of our education plan for as long as required. It ensures pupils are equipped to complete homework tasks and their own further research from home as well as ensuring every pupil continues access to the same high-quality education throughout the pandemic.

“Thank you so much to you and your staff. I could not recommend Heatherton enough and am so grateful for all that your team are doing. Our children are so lucky.” Heatherton Parent, January 2021.

Every pupil has been introduced to the benefits of the features of the Microsoft Teams platform so that all of our Heatherton pupils and staff have the confidence that whichever way they are working, from school or at home, they have the tools, experience and ability to ensure a high-quality and continuous educational experience can be maintained.

Serving others

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:

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Join us

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:

  • Virtual Open Events
  • Video tour of the school
  • Hear from Heatherton pupils
  • Introduction with subject departments
  • Question and answer opportunities with the Head

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 Heatherton School to the first day of your child’s educational journey at Heatherton.

Register your interest now

Find out more about the Admissions process