The Beer Chronicles – an update of the academic year 2020-21

Last week was the first time I had blogged since we returned to school in May 2020. To put it mildly a lot has happened, globally and personally. A statement that everyone can identify with I am sure.

The new job title of Head of Boarding, saw a move into a new apartment in boarding. A move actually that we were always going to make as the residents of that apartment were retiring back to their home country. The move however wasn’t smooth, like any move to a new house you have to wait until the people in the house move out. In our case, they moved out three weeks after term ended with flights being cancelled on them almost on a daily basis! The move and then the added issue of the promotion and what that encompassed and the advice not to travel meant that we didn’t have a summer holiday in 2020, but that was the same the world over. We didn’t mind. We were safe and our family was safe.

Term started in August 2020 and amazingly we finished in June 2021 all with face to face learning. Temperatures were recorded morning and evening in boarding and I finished the academic year with a lever arch file of 5 days a week, morning and evening student temperatures of 430 students. Staff have been resilient, flexible and understanding. If found to have a temperature over 37.3, the student was taken to isolation then collected by parents and taken for a COVID test at a designated fever hospital. Many students had tests, none had COVID.

Term in August 2020 started with social distancing. Only in February after Chinese New Year, did classroom seating get put back into groups of tables, rather than exam style seating and we got to sit face to face eating lunch with friends and colleagues.

On public transportation masks are still a requisite. Every two weeks we update our Su Kang Ma, otherwise known as our green QR code. This is shown at train stations, airports, metro stations, shopping malls and anywhere else that people might congregate. After every holiday students had to show the same code and a green, pulsating 14 day tracker arrow that showed exactly where your phone had been (and hopefully you). If someone had been home to a hotspot or a city in which a hotspot was located then to get into campus a negative COVID-19 test was required.

Our operations staff and nursing staff are the heroes of the decade. In April and May they organised the vaccination of staff. Often only with 24 hour notice. Our second vaccine date was postponed a couple of times just because the authorities hadn’t got enough. Neither of us had adverse side effects, though we did ignore medical advice and ate spicy food and fish, showered within a 24 hour period, exercised and drank alcohol.

Last week, all students aged between 12-17, who wanted the vaccination from both our school and our sister school went to a vaccination station. Eleanor had hers and has also had no side effects. Apart from a mild salsa she did follow medical guidelines!

#NotLeftSuzhou is currently the motto. During Chinese New Year we were restricted to Suzhou. Having spent a great Christmas with friends we decided to spend Chinese New Year together. We booked a 4 bed villa at Naked Water (think back to nature rather than naturism!) on the banks of Taihu Lake – and on the most westerly point of the Suzhou boundary – but we were #StillInSuzhou. Now, as the Delta variant strikes, we are restricted to Suzhou, and if we left Suzhou, we would have to do a 14 day period of not coming to school or eating out or shopping.

We finally got to leave Suzhou in April. Heading to the bright lights of Shanghai we had a great time (again with the same group of friends) eating and drinking our way round Shanghai, going to the tailors, and doing bits of shopping. Highlights was the Peruvian restaurant, Colca, French bistro Pollux and Alimentari Grande. Staying at W Shanghai was luxurious and after 2 modules of my Masters completed, and being on call in boarding pretty much all of the time, some family and friends time was needed.

The end of term happened. We had our school colour run and got thoroughly covered in coloured powder. For our year 13s it was a nice stress busting technique. The colour run had been started 2 years ago by the former student leadership team. Last year it didn’t happen, but we hope that it can happen this year coming. As it is a lovely safe way of students and staff “being got at”.

Our Year 13 class graduated, exams occurred though Pearson Edexel decided not to run their exam series which affected maths, art and economics but alternative unseen material was provided as well as their marking service which our school used. Results are just round the corner, so hopefully everyone is able to attend face to face university this year.

And now after a quick resumé of last year we are approaching a new school year on Wednesday. In June 2022 we will not be able to say well done on completing a whole year face to face, because on Wednesday we have online learning.