SFG College: Building new school community in lockdown

A HEADTEACHER is working hard to ensure the culture and ethos of her brand-new school continues to develop during lockdown.

Sir Frederick Gibberd College opened in Harlow in September with its first cohort of 120 Year 7 students.

Headteacher Dee Conlon had a calendar of events and projects planned for the school’s first year to help students and staff to bond and traditions to be formed.

With all schools forced to close to the majority in March due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Mrs Conlon and her team are having to find new ways to build that community.

Mrs Conlon, who is working on site every day with the children of key worker parents and the most vulnerable, said: “I am trying to establish a brand-new school with a new culture and a new ethos, while also trying to instil values in the children. It is hard enough to do that with a brand-new school, as you have to do it for both the children and the staff who have no older peers or long-term colleagues to look to.

“We are finding creative ways to make sure all of that is still happening and making sure those messages are going out to our children every week.”

Every Monday, students receive an email from their headteacher setting them tasks for the week, focusing on two subjects each week on a rota.

Parents are also contacted via email with information on the latest government updates surrounding schools.

Events due to take place in the school’s first year are being replaced virtually, where possible –
reward assemblies were scheduled for each half term, where each student’s achievements and efforts in all areas would have been recognised and celebrated. Instead, students will receive gift vouchers and certificates sent to their homes
lecture style seminars were planned for the end of every half term to link subjects to careers, SMSC, British values and SFG Heroes. Instead, teachers are preparing mini video seminars to send to students
the school’s first sports day will not take place. Plans are being developed to replace the event with something students can do at home

Year 6 taster days cannot happen. Instead, surveys have been sent to students, their parents and primary school teachers as a way of gathering information about the children. The students are also receiving weekly challenges, similar to those set to existing Year 7 students, to help them to feel part of the school. Inductions will be held on Microsoft Teams for parents rather than face to face

Mrs Conlon said: “We are trying to do the things we would usually do at school, while trying to develop the whole child and keep everyone safe.

“We are showing students we have not forgotten them and they are sending us photos of what they are doing at home. They are so enthusiastic about school, about learning and about getting involved.

“The lovely thing with our students is the culture we set from the beginning is already there; that there is no such thing as failure, that it is ok to not be good at everything, so they are willing to at least try. Being the best is not what matters; it is hard work and effort we reward more.

“We became really close, really quickly as we are such a small school. That goes for staff, students and parents. We all got to know each other really well. It is such a shame the first year is coming to an end with it unlikely we will be able to see our beautiful children again before September.

“I think the bond we have got and the positive start to the school year will mean when we come back together, they will settle back into our routine well. School is their safe, consistent place and it was taken from them overnight. It was amazing to see how attached everyone had become to our school in such a short space of time.

“It is amazing how quickly we got attached to our children. We miss them so much. I know the children are missing us, too. They email us daily to tell us so. We are doing lots of things to keep in touch with our children and look forward to seeing them all again.”

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