‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’ and ‘If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you’ are just two of many phrases we hear in relation to change as a positive driver.  It’s well known that change promotes creativity and that organisations which fail to embrace change quickly stagnate.  Schools are constantly changing, adapting and evolving, not least through the arrival of new students (and staff) each year.

But what about changes which are thrust upon us, altering our lives in a way we hadn’t anticipated?  For many of us, 5th November 2020 was one such change, as we entered the second pandemic lockdown.  This date is etched in my mind as the day that I received a life-threatening diagnosis which changed the course of what lay ahead for me in an instant.  The changes thrust on me were both very unexpected and unwelcome.  Treatment started immediately, with little time to process what was happening.  This was to last many, many months and was gruelling, impacting my ability to work and to share the domestic load at home.  Life also changed immeasurably for my family from that point, not least because they were unable to visit me in hospital due to Covid restrictions.

In a community the size of The Abbey’s, it’s likely that at any given point some of our families will be facing unexpected and unwelcome changes.  Illness, bereavement, marital breakdown and redundancy are just some of the changes families may be facing.  These challenges may also have a knock on effect in terms of financial concerns, changes to domestic arrangements and associated relocations, potentially impacting friendship groups and support networks.

Parenting is essentially preparing children for the path ahead and an important part of this is helping them to anticipate and be ready for change.  For our youngest learners this might take the form of preparatory visits ahead of starting school or beginning to spend time apart from family members.  A few years down the line parents and teachers will jointly be preparing students for puberty.  For those at the top end of the school there will have been negotiations around organising work, managing money, using public transport and learning to cook ahead of the transition to university and independent living.  When our alumnae return to visit, there’s always a delightful mix of ‘I remember when…’ and ‘I can’t believe that…’ as they revisit familiar territory as well as realising how much change has taken place over time.  

We can prepare our young people for the changes we know they will face but some of life’s biggest changes will catch us unawares. In such circumstances it pays to acknowledge just how exhausting change can be.  Children appreciate honesty and are fearful when they sense that adults are hiding something from them.  Sometimes this may necessitate explaining that we, as adults, do not have all the answers at our fingertips but will work things out as best we can.  Building resilience and not trying to shield our children from relatively minor disappointments can help.  How we ourselves adapt to change is the model our children are most likely to adopt, consciously or otherwise.  ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’

Sacha Heard, Assistant Head, The Abbey Junior School