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Two becomes one - the diary of a school merger: September 2020

Wow, so the first of September 2020 is here which means Cippenham infant and primary schools are now officially The Cippenham School. It should be a grand and well publicised opening but there are currently other things on our minds.  Who could have foreseen eighteen months ago that we would be opening in the wake of a national pandemic with the whole world fighting first and second surges that are devastating lives, economies and communities. Perspectives and priorities have had to shift as we begin a new school year, our aim is to make it a safe and happy start.

While we quietly celebrate the coming together of the two schools we are also finalising and checking plans to open safely and confidently.  While we bring staff together in new groups we are also keeping them apart from others.  While we warmly and whole heartedly welcome children back to school life we are also presenting them with a new way of being at school. Juggling what seem to be competing demands has sometimes felt quite overwhelming. It is in times like these that we need to find balance.

I am not a great yoga practitioner but have always found the movement balanced by the stillness hugely relaxing, so much so that yoga is the only class in which I have fallen sound asleep! I came across a quote recently by Danielle Orner, an amputee and cancer survivor who promotes the benefits of yoga: 'Life is a balance between what we can control and what we cannot. I am learning to live between effort and surrender'.  Danielle felt constant scans, waiting for results and chemotherapy left her feeling out of control so she supplemented treatment with diet and yoga and generally looking after herself and feels healthier and fitter than ever.   We might take some inspiration from Danielle and focus on what makes us strong and healthy as a school community;  nail the things we can control that will protect us all and embrace the things that bring us joy. We will also need to support local virus control measures  and surrender to any symptoms or outbreaks of the virus.

The things within our control right now include systems and routines - things like routes around school, timetables, playtimes and groupings, which may feel very different at first but will quickly become established and normal. Hygiene and social distancing, year group bubbles and curriculum timetables will alter the feel of the school week but will settle into a familiar routine.  Our risk assessment is on the website -I would urge all those connected with the school to read this document. All team leaders have been briefed and share a commitment to the actions outlined and will be working with their teams to reinforce messages wherever necessary.

Controlling the virus in our school community is up to us, we all have to follow the rules designed to protect us all. To keep some sense of balance there are two main things we ask of all staff, pupils, parents and visitors:

Practice good hygiene - wash hands well and frequently, take extra precautions after sneezing or coughing

Maintain a social distance - keep 2m apart where possible or 1m with extra precautions. 

While we have been preparing the school for a safe return we have also been embracing opportunities presented by the merger. You will notice new signage when you are on site. The new year group colours and symbols will guide you to the correct area and we hope that this, coupled with designated outside areas and toilets will offer year groups a sense of security, belonging and space. 

We have completely refurbished the toilets and outside space in the year reception area and are very conscious that our youngest children will be starting their school career in very different circumstances. Our aim is to help them settle quickly and confidently and staff have prepared some very engaging activities to support this and will work with you to make the start of school as easy as possible. 

The driveway from Dennis Way will look a bit different as we begin to open up the site and improve facilities for sport. This will take some time as we are keen to keep as much access as possible for drop off and pick up so are doing the work in small, contained pieces. We appreciate your patience during this work.

You will also notice designated mindful spaces around the school. These are being trialled in a few areas across the site to see how children respond to areas where they can be quiet, peaceful and mindful. Over time we will establish mindfulness or wellbeing champions who can provide a listening ear for children in these troubled times.

All teams have been working together and getting to know each other since July and there is a real buzz around year team areas: moving things around, sorting out and organising classrooms.  All teams have shared the vision and values for the new school and school leaders are overseeing final touches and preparations before the children return. We are ready!

We are all looking forward to seeing everybody return to school on Thursday 3rd September.  Some children have been away for six months and we have missed them greatly. We have worked together to open as one school with a single vision: 'To be the best we can possibly be - a school of choice for parents and staff where all are inspired to be an inspiration to others'. The values which guide us: respect, aspiration, uniqueness, positivity and trust will help keep us on course to achieve our vision and to ensure that our newly merged Cippenham School can flourish and grow.

See you all on Thursday!