Never in living memory, has the country faced a challenge like Covid-19. During the 2020 pandemic, the school experience is comparable to no other in our long 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 Berkhamsted is more than just the school which we 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, March 2020
- Berkhamsted Parent, March 2020
At Berkhamsted Pre-Prep, the staff and the leadership team are continually reviewing Government guidelines and ensuring that all our procedures and routines meet this up to date guidance as an absolute minimum. Decisions are made and measures are taken to the minimise the risks. The staff are working both tirelessly and in partnership to keep the children and each other safe.
At the same time, the focus is on ensuring that every child continues to enjoy a wide and exciting curriculum with a strong emphasis on nurture and wellbeing.
Detailed plans are ever evolving; however, the basic ‘on site’ approach starts with the following:
• a robust hand washing programme which all children and staff have learnt and are using
• effective respiratory hygiene following the advice ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’
• freely distributed hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes throughout the school
• enhanced cleaning arrangements and routines including regular fogging
• effective staff social distancing practices
• a requirement that anyone who is ill or who shows symptoms must stay at home
• active engagement with the NHS and the school’s own track and trace system
• ensuring that we are able to provide an environment that feels as close to ‘normal’ as safely possible and that the children can continue to enjoy and benefit of a Berkhamsted Pre-Prep education
Children have been grouped into year group bubbles for all their learning activities. In addition, the Pre-Prep continues to offer a Wrap Around Care provision in order to support working parents. This strategy has allowed for school life to continue but aims to avoid mixing groups and therefore any unnecessary contact.
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 99% for the Pre-Prep including remote learning.
Returning to school amid a pandemic has 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 this context and have provided support to our pupils during the lockdowns of 2020. We place the wellbeing of the children above all else. Our priority has been to ensure our children have a warm, familiar environment, where they thrive and have fun. Wellbeing has been prioritised throughout the school closures through activities such as daily online checks-ins, live class times and 1:1 live online meetings with our children and families.
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.
At Berkhamsted Pre-Prep we place the wellbeing of the children above all else. This has remained a key focus at this particular time, where our priority has been to ensure our children have a warm, familiar environment, where they thrive and have fun. When the children returned to school in September 2020 there was a sense of calm and purposeful learning as well as lots of excitement, curiosity and exploration. The children embraced being back at school with all the gusto and energy of 3 to 7 year olds. While returning to school during a pandemic has placed additional layers on to almost every aspect of school life, our staff have gone the extra mile to ensure that the children are unaffected, creating a ‘new normal’ that feels like it has always been there. It is in times of crisis that you see what excellent looks like.
We use emotion coaching as part of our personal, social and emotional development throughout the Pre-Prep. Therefore, the return to school amid a pandemic simply meant that our focus on this was heightened. We ensured that we were attuned to each child re-establishing secure key relationships with daily opportunities to share how they are. We are fortunate to have both excellent medical and counselling support whose expertise can be called upon if needed.
“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.
Embracing new technology, and a willingness to look outwards and forwards has established Berkhamsted as a leading school for innovation. The events of 2020 have proved that the most innovative and open-minded schools are best prepared for adversity.
At the Pre-Prep, no child who may have to self-isolate will miss out on their education. From home, children will have access to learning in their customary areas of learning including phonics, literacy and maths, as well as the more creative areas of the curriculum. As a result, children continue with their learning progress. In addition, every child has a personal meeting online with their teacher each week. This allows us to both check in with our children but also maintain our excellent relationships, whilst providing our parents with time to talk to their child’s teacher too.
Moving from the physical classroom to the virtual classroom in March was 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 our children. The virtual school not only continues building the key foundations for our children but the innovative teaching engages and enthuses each child. If necessary blended learning will remain a key feature of our education plan, ensuring that, every child continues to access the same high-quality education throughout the pandemic.
“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.”
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 serve 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.