Making a stand

At Fyling Hall, pupils and staff are making a stand. It’s been nearly a week since the UK Government closed schools across the UK and put more stringent social distancing measures in place. With ten international students and six staff still on site, read Mr Instone’s recent account of life at Fyling Hall School . . .

It’s day four in the Big Brother House.

We’ve been in lockdown since Monday and rather like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – no one comes in and no-one comes out.

Well, not quite, we’re just following the UK Government’s guidelines properly. No-one here has the virus (we hope). We’re an unusual case being a small boarding school. The advice was to get international students home if it was safer to do so. In some cases that hasn’t been possible, we’ve had flight after flight cancelled but slowly but surely most have got home. We started with nearly twenty intending to stay. Now we’re down to ten students and six staff living on site.

The sun is shining, there’s a cool breeze and a mist over the sea. Breakfast has finished and students will be logging on to download their latest tasks from our teachers dotted around the countryside. They’ll be sending back marked projects, giving advice, rapidly getting used to a very different way of working, using our creativity to adapt learning to this new delivery mechanism.

For now, students at home are not on strict timetables for subjects although this may change as we go forward. They have daily tasks with deadlines during the week. Most have embraced it well. I’ve seen emails from parents describing their child diligently structuring their day on their own (valuable life skills there). I’ve seen four Year 7 girls all on a video conference call, figuring out my own science task for themselves, working together to understand compounds and molecules.

Our teachers are working to innovate ways of using the online system but what I find more interesting is the way we’re conscious that getting kids to spend even more time in front of screens is not ideal. I’m excited to see students being given tasks around the house that they have to report back on, or instructions on how to make something at home. I’ve seen teachers using the system to act as a coach to students who want to use this time to learn a new skill such as a new language or musical instrument. One of my students has decided to learn the computer programming language Python. I’ve connected him to some resources and will check in on his progress. With my year 7 science group I’ve asked them to report back on list of equipment and ingredients they may have so we can individually set up kitchen laboratories ready to some practical experiments at home.In the Chemistry lab next door, experiments are being done by our boarders here and live streamed to fellow students at home.

Meanwhile I’m stuck on site. Our remaining borders are stuck on site. But do you know what, there’s not really anywhere else I can think of I’d rather be. In the lab we’re well stocked with loads of exciting equipment. Students here have already made some electronics projects. My A level Physics guys have learned Computer Aided Design (CAD) and designed a casing, printed it on our 3D printer, to hold an adapted BBC Microbit microprocessor to gather telemetry data for the 80cm long aeroplane they’ve made.

Yes, it is quieter than normal, just a little bit. But it does remind us what a great educational setting this is. It’s not just that there are great views: it’s that those great views, the fresh air, the open space (and the well equipped laboratories) create a different kind of educational attitude.

It reminds me of something Jacob Bronowski said in his epic television series The Ascent of Man about university towns like Göttingen in Germany, Yale in America and Cambridge in England – they’re cut off, provincial, not on the way to anywhere – no-one comes to these backwaters except for the purpose of learning and to be in the company of like minded learners and professors. For those that come, these places become the centre of the world.

making a stand - we will be reunited

Fyling Hall is such a place, out on the edge of the world, a centre of the world.  From here we are making our stand and look forward to being reunited with you all on the other side.

by Ayd Instone, Head of Physics, Enrichment and Extra-Curricular