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18.04.20 - Parent Letter - Doing The Yards

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Saturday 18 April 2020

Morning everyone,

Hope you are staying well and your loved ones too?

I’m aware for some in our school community this has been a torrid few days. My encouragement is simple? Keep on going, you are doing brilliantly in totally uncharted waters.

I deliberately researched a quote that connects with 400 metres track racing today.

I eventually found it. The actual detail I wanted was in the autobiography of American 400 metre athlete and Olympic champion I had not really heard of before: Sanya Richards-Ross.

I’ve always been quite fascinated by the psychology of people who run that particularly explosive race. Maybe that interest has been fuelled more recently as I’ve now got back into more running myself since lockdown began. It seems to give me HEADSPACE (See my blog on that subject from last weekend).

It seems apparent in authoritative athletic circles that the second 200 metres of a 400 metre competition is often considered the hardest and most crucial part of the race. After the initial blast of the gun, you HAVE to settle down and break into a sustainable rhythm whilst appreciating the HARD YARDS are still to come and that there are still a lot of them to come.

Sanya Richards - Ross describes it this way.

The quoted section reinforced what I already believed and it seems to me, it carries a powerful resonance with where we are as a school, local borough and country within this pandemic We now know we have another 3 weeks (minimum) of lockdown.

We have already finished our first 100 metres of this 400 metre race.

As a school and wider community, we have done pretty well., especially when you consider how quickly this challenge progressed, how none of us had a blueprint or instruction manual for it and how severe the consequences will be if we don’t get it right!

As a community and as a country we are now into our ‘curve’, the first bend of the track and running into the second 100 metre block of this 400 metre race.

Our abilities to finish well in the home straight will be powerfully influenced by our individual and collective actions over these next 2/3 weeks.

That is why our individual and collective actions are so important!

The Government released its latest guidance for schools on the evening of Thursday 17 April and the key messages were clear. I’ve copied them below:

  • Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, schools, colleges and childcare providers will be closed to the majority of pupils until further notice
  • If children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading. That is why the government has asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and asked schools to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.

The local spike of the pandemic is not yet cleared. Yorkshire alone has suffered over 800 deaths and that number is still rising and Calderdale had 93 recorded deaths by Thursday evening.

Statistically I suppose reading the odds for us all as individuals they appear to be quite fair odds. Not so good of course if you or your loved ones become infected.

New Zealand’s impressive prime minister Jacinda Ahern delivered this memorable line on 23 March, a line which has helped frame both their government action and the public’s understanding of it: “We only have 102 cases – but so did Italy once.”

She also committed the country to: “We go hard, we go early.”

This strategy has worked well it would appear. 

Admittedly New Zealand is a much smaller country than the UK with a population of 5-8 million (depending on tourist numbers at any one time) but up to yesterday they had suffered just 11 deaths. They remain in lockdown as I write.

Drawing towards a conclusion.

Our current position at Ravenscliffe is pretty straightforward and won’t be changing significantly for the next 3 weeks at least.

Plainly put, we don’t want an avoidable death in our community and on our conscience.

The bottom line is that this virus could still easily lead to a fatality in the RHS community.

The threat is currently very REAL in Calderdale.

If any students come in, then more staff have to as well. This increases the risk of the spread of the virus.

I also have a duty of care to our fantastic staff team who in and amongst trying to support our students and their families, are battling with their own challenges within all of this.

Social distancing: the very thing that we are all being encouraged to do, is the very thing that our community will never be very good at when together in groups. Our students just don’t get it! They can’t do it and it is very hard for our staff to do it well!

I have massive sympathy for the 184 students at RHS who I would like to be in school, but can’t allow to be in at the current time.

This week we will have a maximum of 4 students in each day throughout the week. They are from Keyworker families and have that right and need. Sadly most of our other students don’t, but even if they did, I suspect from the many daily phone calls that I hold with our families, that the vast majority would still choose to remain at home throughout this second 3 week lockdown period. It really is the safest place!

The Government Guidance released late on Thursday supports our decision 100%, however tough it is at home, and I don’t dispute that it is tough for many of our families.


I can’t in all conscience sanction the possibility of that virus coming into our community where it could wreak havoc.

I really hope, that however tough the message is, that our community can understand this decision. Those students are far more vulnerable in school than they can be at home.

So very reluctantly I decided to sanction that 96% closure decision yesterday which was unanimously agreed across a leadership team of 6 of us during a 2 hour online meeting across Friday lunchtime.

We will review our offer week by week over the next 3 weeks of Lockdown and will try to continue to seek to support our community even if that support for the majority has to be remote support for now

So to finish with a return to the 400 metre analogy.

Please keep doing the HARD YARDS.

We are past the 100 metres and nearing the 200 metre mark. I hope and pray that later, sometime in May, that the home straight will be in full view.

Thank you so much for what you are all doing. Together we can finish this race and finish it well.

Have a safe and peaceful weekend.

Best wishes

Martin x

Track photos of students taken by talented SpringHall based staff photographer Jaime Davis who is still shielding. Stay well and safe Jaime. They were taken on Sport Relief Day in March 2020.

The SpringHall aerial photograph was taken by Mike Robinson, drone photography enthusiast and long term friend of Ravenscliffe. i hope you and your family are well Mike.