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Reflections on remote learning

The Covid-19 outbreak caused Bristol Grammar School to move to remote learning from Friday 20 March 2020. For our Upper Sixth, this has potentially brought an abrupt end to their time at BGS. With summer exams cancelled and no current timeline for all the usual 'final' events of their school careers, they are looking ahead to a very different few months from those anticipated just weeks ago. Sarah, an Upper Sixth IB Diploma student, shares her thoughts below on remote learning, saying goodbye to BGS and the future.

Having spent the past eleven days at home, I have had much time to reflect on recent events and my time at BGS. As a school community, our lives have rapidly changed, but I have been proud to see the strength of support and kindness from students and staff.

My decision to finish school last Monday (16 March), in order to shield a vulnerable family member, was challenging since it came with the realisation that my time at Bristol Grammar School was coming to an end too. I have often found myself turning to a phrase that the Headmaster uses – “doing what is right even when it is not easy”. I have realised that whilst the end to my school years was not what anybody would have wished, it is more important to protect loved ones (with the prospect of celebrating my time at BGS in the future). Thinking of the events that should have punctuated this week – final sports matches, music concerts and trips – I have been reminded of why it has been hard to confront this change. It is because of the significance of these aspects of BGS in my life that they are hard to lose. But that does not detract from the meaning that they have and will continue to provide.

And this meaning continues to be provided by the love, friendship and support of the School community. I have realised that my time at home is not in isolation because of the network that Bristol Grammar School provides. The continued attention and care of staff to both our academic and pastoral needs has given me a sense of normality. The strength of friendships within my IB cohort that have developed over the past two years are evident in the support they provide. I have often considered the community at BGS to be the School’s real asset. At no time has this been as clear as now.

There has been much discussion over recent days about the cancellation of exams this year. Whilst a part of me is naturally disappointed not to demonstrate my work in a formal exam setting, I am less upset that many of my peers. I think that this comes from the fact that during my IB course, I have produced a wealth of coursework. I am far more proud of this work than I am of anything I produce in an exam and feel that it is more representative of me as a student. Of course there is an element of uncertainty, but there is also pride in my portfolio of coursework that will now form a more significant part of my grade.

At this time, I have also come to reflect upon our privileges as a school community. Not only do we have inspiring and dedicated members of staff who can adapt to such changes, but we have the technology to do so. Having been working almost entirely online in Sixth Form, our move to remote learning has only been strange in terms of location. I am excited at the prospect of being able to continue classes through video calling, many through university style seminar groups. The loss of exams has also given us more freedom to learn beyond the course and in areas applicable to life and our futures, bridging the gap between our studies and the world.

With my thoughts and those of my friends now turning to the future, we face much uncertainty about the world in which we will begin our adult lives. But for now I am treasuring the memories of my time at BGS, the values which it has given me and the continuity that it provides.

Thank you to Sarah for taking the time to write this post for us.