As you may be aware, our school joined the Bishop Hogarth Catholic Education Trust on 1st December. You will have seen the welcome letter from the trust on the website. While it has been a busy few months behind the scenes, I hope that neither you nor your children have noticed any difference. Our Governors had their final meeting in November and while they will continue to support our school in the new Local Governing Board, I would like to thank them on your behalf for all their efforts over many years.
Advent in setting
This year we have begun Advent by dressing our Christmas Tree as ‘Families at School’, but sadly not collectively as we would have before CoViD-19. Advent Waiting has also been diminished, with only a handful of ‘family’ groups in the hall with me each day (across the week everyone is able to be part of Waiting in the hall once, and join via Teams on the other days).
Obviously the continuing, and currently more worrying, pandemic is affecting us in school, with children and staff on a daily basis seeking PCR confirmatory tests. Luckily to date we continue to see relatively few children and staff testing positive, although we have both children and staff absent with CoViD-19 at present. This, sadly, is going to impact our Christmas in school. Although the adjustments we are making, I hope, will ensure that families will be able to enjoy the Christmas we all need this year. The events planned are as follows, but are subject to change due to weather and changing CoViD-19 guidance:
Posada: Tuesday 14th December, 3.30pm on the Steps of St. John Vianney Church
All family are invited to join Fr. Michael for this traditional South American journey to Christmas. The word ‘posada’ meaning inn or lodgings, refers to the inns of the Nativity Story and encourages reflection and celebration during the final days of Advent.
Christmas Ecclesia: Friday 17th December at 2.00 pm in Courtyard Garden
We are combining our Christmas Nativity and our Community Carols by Candlelight into a single event this year, which we are calling Christmas Ecclesia. As your children will tell you, an ecclesia is a gathering of the faithful, which in these times, seems very appropriate. This will take place in our garden courtyard and should last about 40 minutes. The children will sing together new carols they have been learning as well as one old favourite, which everyone seems to request from them. As part of this joyful gathering, you, as the congregation, will join the whole community in singing some traditional carols along with a new one, which your children will soon be teaching you!
Due to this being outside, sadly there is no opportunity for individual voices, there is nothing to see. The whole idea of ecclesia is that everyone is as important – families and children alike. Thus, any spoken word, such as my introduction and a gospel reading, will form part of the backing track and will not be ‘live’. The ‘live’ part is our singing!
As I have already said, we are adjusting our normal events so that we focus on the most important part of Christmas while ensuring that everyone is as safe as possible so that plans with family can go ahead. With this in mind, you may want to limit the number from your family you invite. I also recognise that due to this event being outside, we are dependent on the weather which may cause a change even at short notice, as was the case with the Early Years Advent Liturgy, last week. We appreciate this is not helpful for those trying to arrange time off work and we will try to keep everyone up-to-date with arrangements as weather forecasts become more certain.
As is the current guidance, when attending a gathering beyond the household, it is advised that those attending take a Lateral Flow Device test before coming and obviously stay away if experiencing any symptoms. Although outside, with the new omicron variant about, it may be advisable to wear a mask too! In the courtyard garden, there is plenty of room for social distancing between households, remembering there is nothing to see, it is all about the sound.
Festive Snacks: Monday 20th – Wednesday 22nd
In the setting, we will be offering our children a Christmas treat during the three days run-up to the holidays. If your children have any allergies, make sure we are aware of them.
Christmas Disco: Tuesday 21st
We would like to go ahead with this celebration, as our children have always enjoyed it and so we have a plan to keep them as safe as possible. Each room of early years will take it in turns to have a dance in the well ventilated hall during the morning. Years 1 and 2 will enjoy their ‘party’ during the afternoon, again with each class spending time in the disco as a class. For Years 3, 4, 5 and 6 we have planned an outdoor festival style disco from 3.30 until 5.00 pm. While early years and years 1 and 2 should come to school ready for a party, years 3-6 need to dress for an outdoor event, maybe involving wellingtons dependent upon the weather. This will be very different to normal and is not the time to wear your new party clothes (keep these for Christmas), rather wear warm clothes that still allow you to move about and enjoy a dance.
Christmas Dinner: Wednesday 22nd
This year each class will be having their Christmas Dinner in their own classroom. Whether the children have a school meal or bring a packed lunch they all have a cracker and will eat together to make it as enjoyable as possible.
In the setting we are once again feeling the cold, as ensuring adequate ventilation (we now have CO2 monitors) does mean we lose the heat very quickly. Children can bring jumpers and fleeces and a blanket for over their legs when sitting. While this may seem a strange request, remember in school we have the children who have not yet been offered vaccine and we continue to try our best to minimise any spread of infection, so that all of our families can enjoy Christmas with their whole family this year.
John L. Hardy (Head Teacher)