On Saturday 17 October, Hunter Hall, Cumbria’s only independent primary school holds its next Virtual Open Day. While socially-distanced, one-to-one visits are permitted out of school hours, the Hunter Hall team recognise that means a vital element of any school visit is necessarily missing – its pupils and staff. They’ve solved this by creating a Virtual Open Day which offers families the opportunity to see the wide-reaching curriculum and opportunities on offer as well as hear from members of staff – all from the comfort of home.

In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, this plucky small school has not been deterred. Known for its ability to deliver face to face, highly-tailored and individualised teaching and pastoral care for each of its pupils, this was not a school that, on the face of it, was set up for distance learning. However, true to form, led by Head teacher Donna Vinsome, the staff delivered the vast majority of classes in person on-line including art, music and even elements of PE, Outdoor Education and cookery via online platforms during the summer term.  Where face to face via online was not appropriate, or possible – lesson plans, resources and pre-recorded lessons were made available to parents to help support their children’s learning, as well as one to one online pastoral meetings with both children and parents, as they worked together to make the best of this extraordinary situation we all found ourselves in.

All the while, key worker children were welcomed into school by familiar faces providing them with routine and a sense of security every day during this most strange of times.  Thanks to its small class sizes and some creative thinking, by mid-June, the whole school returned in person to Hunter Hall.

In line with government guidelines, classrooms have been reconfigured, bubbles have been formed, school lunches are now back and the timetable (both during and after school) is packed with plenty of fresh air and activity in the form of extensive PE, Games (including an inter-class bubble league in the absence of games fixtures with local and independent schools) and Outdoor Education, plus forest school, phonics outside and English on the playground – to mention but a few of the ingenious solutions the team have come up with to ensure children continue their education come what may.

And should things get difficult again, then pupils, parents and teachers will simply switch back to online learning. In truth, no one wants to go there, but this determined school has got the bit between its teeth and is ready to ride the Covid wave.

Head teacher Donna Vinsome commented:

‘Covid-19 has become everyone’s new normal; as we all continue to adapt in society, I am constantly amazed at the resilience and cheer of our children. Even our youngest pre-schoolers have remained unfazed in the face of constantly evolving safety measures, they simply take it in their stride and get on with whatever the next activity at hand is. We’re working incredibly hard behind the scenes to make sure that the curriculum is as unchanged as possible – our year 6’s even managed a ghyll scramble at Mosedale during the last of the warm weather. It would have been lovely to host our regular ‘in person’ open day, but that’s life now – and to be honest, our Virtual Open Day still comes in a close second!”

Hunter Hall’s next open day is on Saturday 17 October. To find out more and register, visit www.hunterhall.co.uk. Hunter Hall is Cumbria’s only independent preparatory and pre-school for children aged 3 – 11 years and is located on the outskirts of Penrith.