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The Community at Pilgrims'

The community at Pilgrims’, although distanced, is stronger than ever.

What did The Pilgrims’ School, Winchester, due to begin their Spring Term at 0830 on Tuesday 5th January do when the Prime Minister announces at 8pm on Monday 4th January that all schools were to close for the first half of term? Why, they re-launched Virtual Pilgrims’, which meant that at 0830 the following morning, 12 hours after the Mr Johnson’s announcement, 95% of pupils logged on to the Headteacher’s online assembly, including key worker boys supervised on site, numerous boys from around the world, AND two boys who were joining Pilgrims’ for their very first day! After a few resets for passwords forgotten over the holidays, all boys were logged into their first lesson of the day, following their new, virtual timetable.

How was this possible? Well, the efforts of a determined and talented staff body is at the forefront of everything on offer for the boys – with only overnight to prepare, the teaching staff seamlessly switched to remote lessons, providing all pupils with live, interactive and engaging opportunities and support staff were on hand to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all members of the community was considered.

You may be wondering what Virtual Pilgrims’ looks like and how it differs to ‘normal’ Pilgrims’. Put simply, despite the fact that the boys are at home, we are still providing our full timetable of all lessons, including PE, Music, Drama, Art, Design Technology and Forest School! Boys have live contact with their usual subject teachers for every lesson and are able to complete work either online or on paper and upload it to suit each family need. Sport is timetabled every day with boys encouraged to get outside, away from screens and stay active. Our musical ensembles continue to be a huge strength and are all continuing during Virtual Pilgrims’. The first rehearsal of the Junior Choir took place on the second day of Virtual School and saw 90 boys logged on to learn their new repertoire – You’ve Got A Friend In Me. Through Zoom, a full programme of assemblies is running, from a Whole School Assembly with Dr Essex to start the week, members of the Winchester Cathedral taking a whole school assembly and smaller group assemblies for the different age groups within the school too.

Commoners at Pilgrims’ is the name for our after school activity programme, running every day for 45 minutes. We are thrilled to continue to offer this to those boys who want it during Virtual Pilgrims’. With 29 different activities on offer across the week, including Construction, Debating, Illustration, Photography, Scattergories, Touch Typing, Epic Skills, Copernican Society, Bicycle Maintenance, Dungeons and Dragons, Fitness, Maths Puzzles, Greek, Online Animation, Decisive Battles of the Ancient World and Chess, amongst many others, there really is something for everyone. No Pilgrim should ever be able to say he is bored! Over 500 separate bookings have been taken for these commoners, showing the strength of engagement of our boys during their virtual school.

Without question, the most important focus at this time is ensuring the boys are well supported, not just with their academic progress, but most crucially with their wellbeing. Across the week, there are a huge number of opportunities for the boys to access support. Twice daily meetings with their tutor, including an extended session at the end of the week, twice weekly year group socials, twice weekly opportunities to drop in with the school nurse and matron for a catch up which are particularly welcomed by the boarders, and finally the chance to drop in of an evening with a hot chocolate and talk about their day with different staff at the End of Day Cocoa zoom! Parents also have the opportunity to liaise directly with Senior Staff to feedback anything in a weekly email update, and our Director of Wellbeing and Dr Essex both offer weekly drop-in sessions for parents too. The community at Pilgrims’, although distanced, is stronger than ever.

By Becca Higham

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