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Silent classrooms, things can only get better & Genghis Khan

Dear Parents/Carers


10 weeks.


From Monday 1st June, we will officially be entering the final half term of the academic year. Although we have a good number of key workers’ children each day (& they are wonderful), it doesn’t make up for the fact our school is practically empty. Woodlands is usually such a busy, bustling place, with so much going on: nursery children splashing happily in the puddles after a sudden downpour; our reception children pretending the look-out lodge is a ship sailing to America & warning people not to be eaten by the sharks; Mr Anderson leading Forest School sessions in the copse - building shelters or toasting marshmallows around the campfire; Year 1&2 children hurtling around the infant playground pretending that they’re dragons, princesses or Jedi Knights; Year 3&4 pupils playing on the school field at lunchtime, whether it’s monkeying around on the trim trail, making daisy chains or rolling tyres down the slope at the far end of the field; our Y5&6 pupils involved in chaotic games of football during dinnertime or walking around putting the world to rights with their friends (all the while secretly wishing they were monkeying around on the trim trail, making daisy chains or rolling tyres down the slope at the far end of the field…).


Personally, I find it soul-destroying walking into still, silent classrooms. They are normally such hives of activity, with children engaged in a whole range of activities: from getting to grips with the first steps in addition & subtraction to wrestling with long division, from working out where full stops go (what is the difference between the end of a sentence & the end of a line?) to understanding the difference between active & passive voice (no, I don’t know either). There’s normally so much going on, whether it be devising science investigations, studying the works of famous artists or finding out about historical figures & their contribution to our society today. It’s great to see children cooperating with each other, finding ways to solve tricky problems or showing perseverance when things get difficult. All these things create that indescribable ‘buzz’ of a classroom working at its best. I miss that sound.


However, things will get better over the coming months – eventually we will get all our pupils back to school in some form or other. Over the coming months, life at Woodlands will start to look like it used to. Our Year 6 pupils will move on to high school & thrive – ready to take on whatever the next stage of their life throws at them - they have been true role models this year – well, most of the time! Our new nursery & reception children will come wide-eyed & shiny-shoed into their new settings, make friends with their new classmates & learn what it is to be part of the Woodlands’ family. The rest of our pupils will move to new classrooms, with new teachers, & settle back into the familiar routines of school. As ever, we will make sure that they feel happy & secure. There will be lots of opportunities for both academic & social activities on their return. Some children may not have been in school for more than 5 months before they return – we will not be cracking the whip from day one – the children (like the whole of Woodlands) will need time to adjust to the pace of school life. [During the next few weeks, I will ask pupils, parents & staff opinions of what school should look like when we return in September.]


Thank you to the parents in nursery (N2), reception, Year 1 & Year 6 who completed  the ‘back to school survey’ – it gives us a starting point for planning how we will organise these year groups as we return to school from 15th June onwards.  


Vostok 1 update: Mr Grant did indeed splashdown at 00:46 in the early hours of Saturday morning just as he’d calculated, the only issue being that he overshot Southport’s Marine Lake by some considerable distance… he actually landed in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia. Ever upbeat, our hero has decided to follow in the footsteps of Mongolia’s most famous son, Genghis Khan, & recreate his conquests of Eurasia as he makes his way back home. “I’m really into his clothes: a warm felt hat, a long, embroidered jacket with loose sleeves, practical baggy trousers & a nice pair of gutuls to help me ride my Адуу.” He adapts quickly does our Mr Grant. During the early 13th Century, Genghis Khan’s army conquered vast tracts of China & as well as areas of modern-day Russia, Georgia & Bulgaria; Mr Grant insists that, unlike during the actual military campaigns, no blood will be spilt & he will embrace all the people he meets warmly with a “spirit of true friendship & comradely love” (whilst obviously following local social distancing rules). I’m sure you will join me in wishing Mr Grant luck as he traverses half the globe on his latest quest. He has assured me he will be back in time to look after our key workers’ children on Monday – must be a fast Адуу...


I have been asked to flag up this wonderful initiative from Sustrans - it’s packed full of inspirational resources for lockdown activities, games and challenges. Sustrans is a charity dedicated to making it easier for people to walk and cycle; creating healthier places and happier people; their vision is a society where the way we travel creates healthier places and happier lives for everyone. Follow the link & register to access the resources.


Woodlands’ motto is Working together, achieving more; more than ever our school community has shown the importance of this. I’d like to thank everyone again for pulling together in these unprecedented times – pupils, parents, grandparents, staff – you’ve all been brilliant.


I’ve been having difficulty with my eyesight recently – I think I may need new a new pair of glasses. I’m going to take a trip to Barnard Castle to check…


Take care & stay safe

Keith Williams