King's St Alban's

23 March

One Year On – A Lockdown Reflection

One year on since the first lockdown, Mr Chapman marks today with a reflection on both the huge challenges we have faced and the positives we can all draw from the last 12 months.

“Today is my wife’s birthday.  I recall her last birthday as we gathered as a family to watch the Prime Minister announce the first lockdown and life as we knew it changed.  My wife is one of the unlucky minority to have experienced two lockdown birthdays and the one year anniversary of the start of lockdown one gives us all the chance to reflect.

The last twelve months have been incredibly challenging for us all both personally and professionally.  We have all missed our families.  We have all missed seeing friends and the fun things in life.  There has been no visit to a restaurant, party or theatre to temper a tough week at work.  There has been little chance for us to see loved ones.  Prior to this, Zoom was a classic song from the 80s; now it is both the way we work and socialise but also the bane of our lives.  And yet imagine going through all this a generation ago without all the digital opportunities 2021 offers.  We have had to accept major restrictions to our lives and I think we all realise that we have taken some things for granted.  Many of us have lost loved ones or dealt with serious illness.  The sadness of a lockdown funeral has hit many families.  We have worried for the elderly and vulnerable in our lives, accepted the rules stoically and got angry at those who broke them.  We have clapped for the NHS and gained a deeper appreciation of delivery drivers, supermarket workers, social care staff and many, many other critical workers.  Many of us have become obsessed with the daily dashboard and tracked COVID metrics, hoping for a slow-down, some good news, an end.  We have watched in awe as the vaccine programme has gathered speed, fuelled by careful planning and volunteers, and offering the way out.

And what about schools?  This has been the hardest, most dynamic and unpredictable year imaginable.  This has been the most challenging of my 23 year career by far.  And yet we are all grateful to be in secure employment.  We all know friends or families in retail or hospitality where the outlook might be bleak.  We have moved to remote teaching and digital learning, kept school open for key worker children, learned about online platforms, redesigned curricula, offered pastoral support virtually, opened safely in bubbles, closed some bubbles, written extensive risk assessments and tried to remain cheery and positive.  And now, three weeks into reopening, I watch happy, noisy children at playtime.  Children being children.  Children reengaged with their learning and happy to be back.  Children in need of a haircut and desperate to see grandparents.  Children we want together in the same room for an assembly, choir or concert.  Community is everything in a school and it’s been tough to maintain this over the past 12 months.

And what have we learned about our children?  They are remarkably resilient and have more than ‘just got on with it.’  They have had to be flexible.  They do not need long to ‘nail’ the ed-tech requirements!  This generation of school children might have missed a year of sports days, exciting school trips and whole-school ‘community’ events but they have learned a huge amount from their experience.  They will not be a ‘lost generation’ but they will develop into adults able to deal with change, able to adapt quickly and able to count their blessings.  And schools will take the best bits from lockdown learning and take these into the ‘normal’ classroom.  Nobody really saw this coming and I never thought my wife would have a second lockdown birthday but the end does seem in sight.  We will hug our mums, enjoy a drink with friends, see a film and enjoy some live sport; we will not take these things for granted.  We knew it before all of this, but lockdown has reminded us that a sense of community is important and children are amazing.

One year on, a reflection on lockdown makes me realise that I am incredibly proud and grateful for the dedication of staff, positivity and resilience of children and steadfast support of parents over the last year. In lockdown, we have all shown that we can pull together, be kind and support one another. On reflection, there are some major highlights that spring to mind from the last twelve months that would have been unthinkable this time a year ago. Who would have imagined we would be doing ‘lockdown real life art’, zoom lessons and virtual concerts, socially distanced meetings and assemblies, virtual collective fundraising or even ‘bubbled’ cathedral services? We have achieved so much in the last year and we can safely say that the sense of community at King’s St Alban’s has never been stronger.”