Head’s Blog: Voices Off

7 May 2020

A school is, above all, its people. 

I often find myself saying this and, even oftener, thinking it.  How, then, to make sense of a school going full steam ahead through term time where the people are almost exclusively absent?

The buildings, always secondary, take on a symbolic value, as the site of an imagined community.  The voices, though, are largely heard elsewhere.  Our Newsletter is about those ‘voices off’ – the sounds and presences beneath the surface stillness.  Listening hard and with attention (what James Wood calls ‘serious noticing’), we find subtler harmonies can be heard that may not be discernible in the hurly burly of daily life under normal circumstances.  How polyphonic they turn out to be!

The basso continuo, providing the underlying structure for the whole, comes from the lessons and tutorials of the Guided Home Learning programme.  Anecdotes come my way every day of the creative and ingenious ways in which staff are collapsing the distance between themselves and their pupils, with improvised scientific practical demonstrations filmed in the kitchen, teabag dyeing tutorials, shoe-box theatre set making projects, short films, recordings, demonstrations and virtual book-groups.

The students, in their turn, have scoured every corner of our online and offline worlds to find inventive ways to research, write, edit, share, create, collaborate and express themselves.  Virtual A Cappella is going strong and the Year 11 singers have risen to the challenge to produce an entry for the GDST SongVision Competition, adding their voices to a planned festival of song on 22 May.

Meanwhile, in the Library, the hush is broken by the sounds of a (socially-distanced) game of Monopoly being played during a wet break by our on-site student group.  In the grounds, the OHS bees have added their hum – the hives are thriving – and the companionable quacking of the OHS mallards reminds us that nature’s diurnal rhythms carry on regardless.

Serious noticing is akin to appreciation and, in searching beneath the surface silence while noticing the silence itself, we are able to apprehend all that we are missing – and all that we have.

Wishing you well on this Bank Holiday weekend


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