The reality, the challenge and the lie of the ‘new normal’

There is very little about life as we knew it pre-March 2020 that is still happening and, despite a prevailing feeling among many that we’re all a bit sick of the impact that COVID-19 has had so far, there is, without a doubt, more change to come. We always were living through history because that’s how time works, but this is a period of time that will surely be studied closely.
Senior leaders in schools have worked harder than ever before to get school buildings ready, to prepare teachers and support staff, to make significant changes to the way learning is organised (such as year-group bubbles) and resourced. Along with implementing a ‘recovery curriculum’, new sanitisation regimes, systems to manage break times and lunches, risk assessments and plans for ‘bubble closure’, it’s no wonder that after just a few weeks of term, everyone in schools is exhausted by the stress of the new routine.

And of course, very few schools are welcoming visitors. Some are asking for one-to-one therapeutic work to take place in an appropriately sized space, using face masks and either a visor or a six-foot clear plastic shield. Those I know with a therapeutic role in schools have a mixed response to this – some are keen to resume the work, others with health complications are much more cautious. Meanwhile most Christian work, such as delivering assemblies, JAM and Jaffa-type clubs, RE lessons or Christian Unions, has stopped, and is not restarting from what I have heard. Those Christian schools’ workers I have spoken to are providing videoed material for classroom assemblies or reflections for staff. Some are sending in packs of materials to encourage staff that may include sweets, words of encouragement and an invite to use material online in classrooms. Interestingly it would seem there is a ‘stronger than ever before’ argument for the need for collective worship in the context of the recovery curriculum. To gather in small groups to experience awe and wonder is potentially more key to rebuilding community than ever. 

With regards to funding, there is less money in the system and churches are no different. There will be some difficult decisions to come, if they haven’t already, in terms of where the money needs to be spent and which budgets will need to be cut.
The sheer scale of the change we have been dealing with in the last six months has been overwhelming. For every person reading this article, life looks significantly different now, workers have been furloughed or working from home, redundancies are beginning to happen in many industries, and ours is unlikely to be exempt as funding streams change or even dry up entirely. Even where the majority of work is carried out by volunteer teams, there are substantial differences. More grandparents and other wider family members have been pressed into childcare to support the parents who are working from home or are key workers, those volunteers whose health makes them vulnerable may well have found the tentative easing of restrictions over the summer a challenge. And we are all wondering about new restrictions to come over the winter. In reality these are only a few of the changes we’re facing!
In among all the change there is good to be found: a rise in community spirit during lockdown; a pause in the busy merry-go-round of work, family and church commitments; having time and space to rediscover hobbies such as gardening, craft, or even begin a new thing; recognising those key workers whose work keeps us fed and healthy; getting to grips with new technology in order to keep in contact with loved ones; joining in with different church services online; a dramatic drop in air pollutants; less commuting which increases the time many people can spend with their families.


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