It has lifted the spirits watching pupils return to school today

I have never started a school up from scratch (nor for the avoidance of doubt have I any desire to), but I imagine the logistics are something like those my colleagues have been modelling for the past few days and weeks. Every aspect of school life has a regulation to follow – understandably – and the planning of every bit of the day, for every boy, has had to be thought through.

Watching our boys arrive this morning and (teething problems aside) watching it work, lifts the spirits. The school is here to be full of pupils, and to get our purpose restarted is wonderful.

I hope that all of us too (as I’ve been saying in today’s assemblies) don’t let the moment go unnoticed. Whitgift has been educating boys for 400+ years and never before – not in war, not in plague, not in revolution – has it closed its doors. Covid has marked everyone’s lives in some way, and damaged and taken lives from every section of society. We should not forget that.

Part of our staff training was the practicalities of the reopening. But I’m glad that part was also more thoughtful and reflective – challenging even. We had a day on Diversity and Inclusion, with some excellent speakers and workshop leaders. As one of the country’s most ethnically and socially diverse schools, this should be, and in some ways is, a strength for us, but there’s more we can do and will do.

The challenge is always how we marry the community as an entity with the different backgrounds and experiences of each boy, and that’s true of the restart too. Each of us – boys and staff – has had a different ‘lockdown experience’. Some have been lucky, others faced struggles and losses. But we are all moving forward – carefully but optimistically – together. And that is a cause for celebration.