We are now finishing our sixth week in lockdown, and the shape of our lives is currently very different. I know that people are missing big life events as well as the small things that mean a lot to us as individuals and families. However, I hope, like me, you are finding time to do things that would otherwise get pushed out. My big challenge during lockdown is learning to play chess. Both my husband and son are keen players, and they have decided that now is the time for me to learn. It is an interesting process being a learner again! I have to accept that I will get it wrong (and hear the gentle voice saying “are you really sure you meant to do that”), and I have to deal with my own limitations and shortcomings. I always want to get it right first time, but I have yet to win a game, and that’s even with my opponent sacrificing a knight or a bishop before we start. But I’ve had fun converting a tatty Ikea table into a chessboard mosaic, and I’ve learned to use plaster of Paris to make a set of chessmen (anything to avoid losing yet another game)!

I’ve been incredibly impressed with the children at Kingsley over this lockdown period and how busy they’ve been. As you will know, I set a series of challenges at the start of the Easter holidays. These are meant to be a bit of fun, provide some structure and some ideas for new things to try. Thank you to all the parents and children who have been in touch with me to share what they’ve been getting up to. I can honestly say these messages have really cheered my days and given me lots to smile about. What has been noticeable is the number of children who have made drawings, potato print cards etc and sent them to older family members who are obviously locked down and not available for visits. I’m so impressed that so many of our children have taken the time to send practical tokens of their love and care.

Children and teenagers can get so much bad press about being thoughtless, but that is clearly not the case with our young people at Kingsley, they have been magnificent.

The other challenge I set our children before the current crisis started was a reading challenge. I invited everyone to try and read one million words by the end of the summer term, that equates to around twelve books. I really do hope everyone is using their time to fit in some reading, as this really matters. Some people like having stories read to them when they are doing other things, so if this is your child and if you haven’t yet discovered audible.co.uk then I would urge you to find it. They are currently offering free children’s and teen audiobooks during the lockdown.

Some of the families who have been in touch with me have talked about the parents taking the opportunity of more time together to share their favourite childhood books with their children. I always read “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett at this time of year which was a childhood favourite of mine. I’m not usually keen on high Victorian children’s literature, but this one captures the magic of living things coming to life in spring and re-reading it each year has become a personal tradition. Researchers have concluded that one of the biggest single factors in predicting educational success in children was the number of books they see their parents reading. So, I’m not just encouraging our young people to read. Parents – if your child sees you reading, they are much more likely to read themselves!

Finally, I want to thank the very many of you who have been in touch about the online learning which our wonderful teachers have been providing. I cannot tell you what a difference it has made to your child’s teachers to get his praise and thanks. I’m delighted that we are getting it right for so many of our families. I think the teachers have been phenomenal in embracing the challenges of working in an entirely new way and your support has made it much easier for us to step out of our comfort zones and try new things. It’s very easy to fire off critical emails, and we should certainly be told when things can be improved, but I’m very appreciative of parents telling us when we get things right too.

Mrs Gill Jackson
head@kingsleyschoolbideford.co.uk