Ely College principal on going forward: ‘It won’t be easy, but I know that we have the staff and students we need to achieve great things with’

PUBLISHED: 11:32 22 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:32 22 June 2020

'We have tried to maintain true to our aspiration of being an exceptional college for an exceptional community' says Ely College principal Richard Spencer. .

'We have tried to maintain true to our aspiration of being an exceptional college for an exceptional community' says Ely College principal Richard Spencer. .

Archant

Ely College principal Richard Spencer describes the “extraordinary examples of bravery, generosity and kindness he’s experienced during the coronavirus lockdown”.

George Chipperfield ran a marathon in 7 days for EACH, raising £320. George is a member of Scott House in Year 7.George Chipperfield ran a marathon in 7 days for EACH, raising £320. George is a member of Scott House in Year 7.

This virus has been hardest on the most vulnerable in our society.

But it has been a shared experience for communities, and those of us working in schools have witnessed the most extraordinary examples of bravery, generosity and kindness over recent months.

The last couple of days before we ‘closed’ Ely College will stay with me forever. As it became clear that a period of closure was coming, we frantically set about doing our best to prepare for a leap into the unknown.

We tried to quickly train students and teachers in how to access the computer programmes they would need to teach and learn remotely on.

Year 7 student from Etheldreda House, Caitlin Cunnew, delivering her own ‘Sunday Newsletter’ to her grandparents to keep in touch.Year 7 student from Etheldreda House, Caitlin Cunnew, delivering her own ‘Sunday Newsletter’ to her grandparents to keep in touch.

We tried to identify those students we knew would struggle most with closure to provide help. We tried to keep students, staff and families safe and informed about the emerging threat of the virus.

We have tried our best, and we are still trying our best to provide maximum continuity, contact and a rich curriculum. Parents have been called upon to support their children’s learning like never before. They have been superb and deserve recognition and thanks.

But we know it is not enough. There is no substitute for the experience of school, and we are all desperate to get back to college fully as soon as it is safe to do so.

Ely College has been open throughout for the children of key workers, and to provide childcare for some of our most vulnerable families.

Kodi Shackcloth’s pavement chalk art to thank the NHS. Kodi is a Year 7 student in Franklin House.Kodi Shackcloth’s pavement chalk art to thank the NHS. Kodi is a Year 7 student in Franklin House.

This week we have welcomed back students in Years 10 and 12 in small, socially distanced groups for some face to face teaching as the first step in the process of wider opening. Our staff have overwhelmed me with their commitment and desire to help and to keep our community together, whether in person or remotely.

We are proud to have manufactured and distributed more than 1500 PPE items to local care providers. We have delivered food parcels and learning resources to shielding or vulnerable families in need.

In a few short weeks we have transitioned into an online school, with a mixture of live-streamed lessons and pre-set learning activities.

Tutors and the Ely College Houses have kept in close contact with the students to ensure that they remain safe and well, and to encourage them to engage with the learning from home.

Staff members Debbie Knott and Anita Lightfoot delivering school work to Ely College students in all weathers!Staff members Debbie Knott and Anita Lightfoot delivering school work to Ely College students in all weathers!

We have tried to maintain true to our aspiration of being an exceptional college for an exceptional community. I am sure we will look back on things we could have done better, but I’m very proud of our response and confident that we have played our part well.

I worry continually about the welfare of our students, about the gaps in their progress that may be emerging, and about the impact of so much time out of school on their personal development.

We are busy planning how best to address these issues when the college returns to a more ‘normal’ footing. It won’t be easy, but I know that we have the staff and students we need to achieve great things with.

We are also fortunate to be part of a wonderful, dynamic community that will emerge from this period with great strength, collective determination, and immense pride.

Year 7 student, Daniel Torrens, reading to his cat! The reading challenge was for students to read aloud to someone in their home. Daniel is also a Scott House student.Year 7 student, Daniel Torrens, reading to his cat! The reading challenge was for students to read aloud to someone in their home. Daniel is also a Scott House student.

Supplying Cambridge Children’s Physiotherapy Department with Ely College made PPE.Supplying Cambridge Children’s Physiotherapy Department with Ely College made PPE.

Scrubs hand-made by Ely College Technology Department and students for NHS staff.Scrubs hand-made by Ely College Technology Department and students for NHS staff.

Year 11 student Sophie Barnes in Turing House skated 28 miles along the guided bus route from Cambridge North to St Ives, and back again as part of her ‘off ice’ ice-skating challenge. She raised over £1,000 for Addenbrooke’s Hospital.Year 11 student Sophie Barnes in Turing House skated 28 miles along the guided bus route from Cambridge North to St Ives, and back again as part of her ‘off ice’ ice-skating challenge. She raised over £1,000 for Addenbrooke’s Hospital.


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