Thriving through Covid-19: Prep

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The Berkhamsted 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 Ministers announcement in March 2020 Berkhamsted ran virtually at a moment’s noticeEverything the pupils normally experienced, in a physical setting, in and outside of the classroom transformed into a new virtual world overnight; and was repeated again in January 2021 with the national lockdown.

Events since March 2020 has brought home to us more than ever before that Berkhamsted Prep 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.

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To go from no online teaching to completely online within a matter of days is truly impressive.

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- Berkhamsted Parent, March 2020

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A seamless transition to an unprecedented situation. Hats off to all staff for their hard work, regular communications and advanced planning – it has really paid off, thank you.

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- Berkhamsted 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 whist 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:

  • a requirement that people who are ill or showing symptoms to stay at home
  • mass staff testing. Weekly tests for staff will help identify asymptomatic carriers and prevent the spread within school.
  • 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 staying within 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, are grouped into year group bubbles and continue to have pastoral time with their Form Teachers and a weekly assembly with the Headteacher. Academic lessons have continued as normal 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.

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 that 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 98% for Prep school including remote learning.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

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 by ensuring every child meets with their form teacher and fellow classmates daily. Because well over 80% of all lessons are live, staff can engage with the children to instantly check on their progress and understanding and answer any questions they may have. The children maintain a sense of belonging and take comfort from hearing and seeing their friends and teachers, despite being apart from them. Additionally, the school may arrange small group conversations or one-to-one meetings accompanied by parents to support those finding the experience of working remotely more of a challenge. Daily recorded assemblies provide a break away from the busyness of the schedule, offering a period of quiet and reflection.

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 during the various times and have supported our pupils throughout the challenges that 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. 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. In addition, the specialist wellbeing team, consisting of the nurses, chaplaincy and counsellors 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.

Teaching and Innovation both in the classroom and remotely

“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  to staff, in addition to adopting an approach to education that maximised their benefit, has ensured that pupils and teaching staff were one-step-ahead when the pandemic hit.

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. 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. 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.

When the school sites are open, isolation or minor Covid symptoms have not caused Prep pupils to miss out on their education.  From home, they can access live lessons to stay included in the class through our hybrid learning which will 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.  Parents are able to find out more details regarding our remote education guidelines on the Parent Portal.

“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.”

From September 2020, every pupil in Years 5 & 6 has been issued with a Microsoft Surface Digital Device to enhance the learning and teaching experience between school and home. In conjunction with the pupils in Years 3 & 4 being introduced to the benefits of the features of the Microsoft Teams platform, all of the Prep School pupils and staff have the confidence that whichever way they are working, from school or remotely 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 tours of each campus
  • Hear from Berkhamsted pupils
  • Introduction subject departments
  • Question and answer opportunities with the Head of each school

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.

Register your interest now

Find out more about the Admissions process