Bubbles, masks and social distancing – this term has been anything but normal for schools and their students.

With the challenges and restrictions imposed by Covid-19 guidelines, there was a greater level of apprehension about the return to school in September.

Yet, in a combined effort from schools across our Trust, staff and students came together to make the Autumn term a wonderful experience.  

Below, the Principals of Aspiration’s West London academies reflect on the last few months of school, sharing details on the return to school life, how the term has ended, and their highlights so far from this academic year.

The return to school life

Initially, returning in September was daunting to some. However, students were more eager than ever to get back to learning.

Rachael Saim, Principal of Oak Hill Academy, said: “It feels like it’s almost life as normal at Oak Hill now.

“The children have been bursting through the doors every morning, especially during those first few days back in September.

“Everyone has shown a love for learning and an incredible strength of character.”

Students at Oriel Academy have made staff proud this term with their engagement in learning.

Principal Aine Linney commented: “Students have adapted remarkably well since returning in September.

“Managing the bubbles has been difficult, but the children have been extremely understanding.

“Attendance has been brilliant and all year groups have been really eager to get back to learning.

“We’re all so proud of every student at Oriel this term.”

At Park Academy, Principal Juan Delgado was impressed by his students’ resilience: “The changes enforced by Covid restrictions were always going to cause some degree of consternation.

“However, students have shown what they are really made of and what has come through each day is the resilience and toughness these students possess.

“There has not been a day when we haven’t witnessed determination, a will to succeed and calmness from our students.

The atmosphere at Space Studio West London has also been calm this term.

Principal Andy Morgan said: “Students have adapted brilliantly to social distancing and bubbling.

“The whole school has been incredibly calm and purposeful.

“It’s clear that students like being back at school and they don’t want to be stuck learning from home. Engagement this term has been incredible.”

Andria Singlehurst, Principal of Rivers Academy, was particularly moved by everyone’s efforts to keep learning engaging: “Staff have been ingenious in creating learning that is engaging during these challenging times.

“From year 11 Spanish students learning about Hispanic traditions through the medium of festivals, to year 8 undertaking experiments to learn about the development of penicillin, there has been a real buzz within the whole curriculum this term.

End of term fun

Amongst all the hard work and learning, our West London schools have made time to celebrate and have a bit of fun this term too.

At Oak Hill, students were treated to a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings!

Students celebrated with Christmas crackers and party hats.

Oak Hill’s Christmas dinner.

Students also watched a virtual pantomime of The Wizard of Oz, and participated in Christmas jumper day.

Students at Oriel Academy were also treated to a Christmas dinner this term and wore their Christmas jumpers.

Year 4 were lucky enough to take part in a science workshop earlier in the month, where they undertook experiments with the help of a real-life guest scientist.  

Year 4 science workshop at Oriel.

At Park Academy, students used the lead-up to Christmas as an opportunity to give back.

The academy donated items to their local foodbank, filled shoeboxes with gifts for less-fortunate children, and gave out Christmas cards in the community that were designed by Park’s own students.

Park Academy giving back at Christmas.

Space Studio West London impressed with their remarkable Christmas tree in the foyer, decorated in Space Studio’s colours and topped with their very own rocket-angel!

Christmas jumper day at Space Studio West London.

In their bubbles, students also enjoyed their annual Christmas dinner and showed off their Christmas jumpers.

Highlight of the term

With so many wonderful moments, it was hard for our principals to pick just one!

At Oak Hill, Rachael Saim loved the virtual pantomime earlier in the term. Rachael said: “I’ve been so used to doing virtual assemblies this term with no audience, it was almost surreal seeing a whole year group sit together to watch the pantomime – I’m used to the hall being empty!

“That moment made me realise what’s been missing this term – the children all being together.

“It was really heart-warming to see and was definitely a standout moment.”

Aine Linney particularly loved the first day back at Oriel this term.

Aine commented: “After a challenging few months prior, it was incredible to finally welcome everyone back in September, and was actually a moment of relief.

“It was great to see the excitement on the children’s faces as they were reunited with their friends!

“I’ve particularly loved welcoming new faces and getting to know new families.”

Andria Singlehurst also enjoyed welcoming new faces to Rivers Academy this term.

Andria said: “I have loved welcoming year 7 to their new school.

“In just a few months, they have really settled in and are already impressing us with their progress.

“Welcoming all the new faces to Rivers was a delight.”

At Park Academy, Juan Delgado’s highlight of the term was the incredible engagement levels he witnessed: “My favourite highlight of this academic year has to be the engagement in lessons and the quality of teaching that I have seen.

“Staff and students have worked collaboratively to achieve excellent outcomes and this has been priceless!”

When Andy Morgan – Principal of Space Studio West London – was asked about his highlight of the term, he excitedly responded: “Sitting in a tiny tank!”

Andy Morgan‘s highlight of the term.

Earlier this year, Space Studio students took part in an Army Outreach day, where students (and staff!) had the opportunity to climb into a small tank. Andy was a big fan!

All staff look forward to welcoming students back in 2021 for another successful term.