I was as excited as one of our reception unit pupils this morning when I saw the first crocuses have opened up and added their yellow to the purply blue and gold of the irises. At the back of the field and in the old groundskeeper's garden there is an absolute mass of snowdrops it's definitely starting to get lighter in the mornings too. I have a strong feeling that spring must be on it's way. I think a lot of us are pinning a lot of hope on the longer evenings - I've done my calculations and I'm thinking that by the end of February I might even be arriving at school in daylight! If the long dark winter has been hard for you and your family, if times have been hard and you have had a heavy heart these first signs of spring mean so much. Even if the snow comes now we'll know the blossom is on its way!
By the way - thanks to the gardening group - someone once upon a time planted those bulbs that gave me so much pleasure today. Thank you whoever you are!
Parents received an email from me earlier today to keep them up to date with the situation regarding covid-19 in the school. As of this morning we knew of nineteen pupils who are isolating following a positive test for covid-19. There has been a steep rise over the week - mostly in Years five and six but with children in all classes in the school affected. We also have two members of staff who have tested positive.
We sought advice from Public Health England, their instructions are that there is no need to change anything at the present time. We continue to follow hygiene protocols, we ventilate rooms thoroughly, we sanitise hands and we limit movement between classrooms. The children have assembly together in our huge and well ventilated hall and they play together at playtime and lunchtime. We hope that all families who are affected are doing ok - do let us know if there is anything we can do to help.
Cross Country Running
It was such a brilliant thing to see a big team of excited runners getting on to the coach for today's cross country running competition. We had aimed to take forty children to the inter-school competition in Okehampton - covid took a few of those out - but we were still a pretty large party. Thanks to the parents who came along to help look after the children and to the parents who came along to shout their support. Mr Frewin was the perfect coach - making sure the children felt equally challenged and supported.
Every child tried there very best with Henry being a real stand out as someone who gave their all then found a little more to give. He really put emphasised the 'Challenge' in our school values while the way the whole team worked together to support each other underlined the 'Community' aspect. Results don't matter so much on a day like this, so long as we've done well enough to progress through to the next round we are happy. However... we are pretty pleased with our Year Three/Four Team who managed to take first, second, third, fourth AND fifth places in their race. That's pretty good going I'd say! Whether it's something about the number of keen runners in our community or something about the rocks and soil hereabouts I don't know but we really do seem to breed some good runners.
School Dinner Register
Getting through the dinner register in the morning is a dreadfully time consuming job that can waste a great deal of good learning time. Reminding children what's on offer then waiting while they change their minds and then change them again can cost teachers up to ten minutes a day - which is fifty minutes a week - time enough for another whole lesson. We would be very grateful if every family could pre-book their meals on the system - if we all manage to do that then the teacher can glance down the list to check that everyone is accounted for and move straight in to something a little more interesting.
Huge thanks to every family who is already doing this - it really does help. I'd love to think that we can catch up with South Tawton where, or so they tell me, the teachers rarely have to fill in even one school dinner slot!
Butterfly Conservation Project
This week our Year Three and Four pupils started their butterfly conservation project in partnership with Shallowford Farm over near Widdicombe. In this first session Ellie, the education officer from the farm, came to the school and explained all about the project. The Marsh Fritillary Butterfly used to be common on the moor but is now increasingly endangered - isolated groups of them still live in the valley bottom at Shallowford Farm however and in the patches of habitat on neighbouring farms. The team at Shallowford want to plant lots of Devil's Bit Scabious - the butterfly's exclusive food plant - and join up the isolated patches of habitat and they wanted our help to grow the plants. Each of our children brought in something to grow plants in and planted out seeds taken from last year's scabious plants. To make sure that we are growing the exact same species and variety as the butterflies on the farm are used to the seeds were taken from the exact places that we will be planting them. later this year we will take the children to visit Shallowford Farm to see if we can spot the butterfly in its breeding season and to survey the plants that grow in the valley bottom. Later in the year, when the plants we are caring for here at school are big and strong enough to be planted out, we will take them to Shallowford and plant them out, expanding the butterflies' range and connecting up patches of habitat. The children had a great time and learned a lot from this first visit - I can't wait to see the project develop.
St Brigid's Crosses
Children from right across the school had a great time learning how to make St Brigid's Crosses to be displayed at the church as part of the ongoing 'Celebration of the Earth'.
St Brigid was a fifth century Irish holy woman. She shares her name with a pre-Christian goddess and her feast day falls at Imbolc - the mid point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. There are many great stories associated with Brigid; in one story she asked a king for land to build a convent on. It was in a sweet spot with fewsh water for bathing and drinking and plenty of firewood to gather. The mean land owner - who was known for his cruelty to the poor - said 'no!'. Brigid asked for just as much land as her cloak would cover and, laughing, the kind agreed. Brigid took off her cloak and placed it on the ground. Each of the women with her took up a corner of the cloak and stated to move away from each other, slowly at first, then running, away - with the cloak magically stretching effortlessly to cover more and more ground - rivers and woodland and valleys and hills. The king saw what was happening and cried out 'Brigid! What are you doing!' Brigid told him how she had heard how mean he was and how badly he treated people with less privilege than himself. He repented and said, 'Please, let me be forgiven and I will give you a good plot of land for your convent.' He was as good as his word and that place is where St Brigid established her convent and her school of metallurgy, crafts and decoration that is said to have made the most perfect books in all Ireland. Books that would make The Book of Kells look like a copy of The Beano so perfect are the lines and harmonious the colours. St Brigid is the patron saint of many things farmers, bakers, craftsmen and brewers - one of my favourite stories about her is that she was so skilled she could turn water into ale. She is also known for the quality of her excellent blueberry jam.
Our children heard a little about the saint and made these St Brigid's crosses - traditionally made from rushes rather than pipe cleaners! These were taken to the church and used as part of a celebration in the evening. If you'd like a go at making a St brigid's Cross you can find instructions online - or just ask a child to show you!