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Virtual Christmas

Apologies that over the lockdown, the Headteachers’ Blog dried up a bit. The simple fact of the matter is that it has been a simple case of writers block. I could have quite readily blogged on the subject of doom and gloom and Coronavirus, but with a responsibility to keep community spirits high, I thought it a subject best avoided. Until now…

It’s the last day of term and I’m stuck at home isolating with Horace. I love the last day of term and the special atmosphere in school, and being able to wave goodbye to the children at the gate and wish them a Merry Christmas, but this year it will have to be done virtually.

Amongst all the difficulties this year, there have of course been a few winners too, benefitting from everyone else’s misfortune. I’m very much regretting my decision not to have invested the school budget in Zoom, hand-sanitiser products and Deliveroo, however the biggest winner of all has to be the virtual world.

Right at the start of lockdown we had the virtual Grand National and since then, just about everything else has become ‘virtual’. Some adaptations haven’t worked quite so well, like virtual Jenga – a dexterity game just isn’t going to work on a screen – however many adaptations have far-exceeded expectations. The after-hours staff virtual quiz, through Zoom direct to classrooms, was probably better than the real thing. And when Santa visited school last week, modern technology avoided a potential disaster. Just imagine how many Christmases would have been ruined if Santa had tested positive having sat every child in the country on his lap?

However the overall virtual triumph of this most unusual year has to be the Highgate Primary Virtual Christmas Fair, delivered to the comfort of your own home across 10 days of festive fun. I love the Christmas Craft fair but with this on the banned list, ingenuity, creativity and resourcefulness were required in equal measure. And did we deliver!

My involvement was both varied and preposterous. It started with an invitation to read the final chapter of Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol. Following David, Kate and John was always going to be hard, especially as an isolating John clearly had the football on in the background (something for everyone), but the virtual bedtime story format certainly worked its Christmas magic.

Being asked to judge the Highgate Primary Christmas Bake off should have been a dream job – think Paul Hollywood getting stuck into the weekly showstoppers – but perhaps not quite so much fun virtually. That said, it was lovely to see all the photos of our children in their kitchens baking away, making the most impressive array of Christmas cakes.

Crimbo Bingo was a hit too, as I followed Alpha as the celebrity bingo host. Virtual bingo, with special created Christmas calls (Chimney dive – 45; TV heaven – 57; one sprout or two? – 42), works really well in a virtual world. You should try it!

Then there was the 4IO Christmas Radio show, which I thought was completely brilliant. In fairness, radio has a bit of a tradition of working in a virtual world, but what a fantastic way to get the children involved in the skills of radio presentation and production. If you haven’t had a listen, it really is worth doing so, as it provides a really good insight into our school community.

Last night I judged the Christmas Pet Photography Competition, which was genius. Very simply, to enter, participants had to dress up their pet in a Christmas outfit, take a picture and send it in. The field was dominated by cats and dogs, but as an inclusive school we allowed animal toys and, rather bizarrely, a rather splendid cactus to take part. In a closely run contest, Moss, Winnie and Kleio just pipped Strummer, Peter the maths cat and Orla the Scottie to the top prizes.

And to top it all, this Saturday we have the Virtual Christmas Production. How exciting!

I’m not surprised that the money raised this year has matched the real thing – so virtual Christmas hats off to our brilliant Highgate Primary community! Making the best of a bad job has been my mantra this year, and this Christmas, I think we can be rather proud.

William