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Cookstown High School, Cookstown

CHS Message - 31st March

31st Mar 2020

Cookstown High School is so much more than merely an institution for education.  If ever there was a time to reach out and demonstrate the way in which this school cares for and tends to its pupils, staff, parents, former pupils, future pupils and indeed the wider community, it is now. 

I know that last week we posted the beautiful reflective message with our very own CHS daffodils and it was very timely; the message captured the mood of the entire community.  As I am writing this today, I am inclined to think of an alternative acronym for CHS and this would be COMMUNITY, HEALTH and SERVICE. 

COMMUNITIES must ‘pull their weight’ in terms of heeding the advice from the authorities in terms of good hygiene (handwashing) and following the guidance “Stay at Home”.  It is up to families to ensure that they are maintaining regular contact with relatives and neighbours (a phone call or a message) and yet respecting the social distancing advice.  Our generation is more mobile than ever before and it is very disconcerting to find that our outings are curtailed and our social plans in disarray; but I believe most would agree that having to stay at home for a couple of months to help overcome this pandemic would be a small price to pay.  Watching the news can be a most worrisome and angst causing experience at the moment and it is worth remembering that children, particularly the youngest and most vulnerable really don’t need to be exposed to EVERY news article and EVERY new development; please care for our children at this time, please be sensitive to their needs.  I know many of you (parents/carers and pupils!) are finding it a challenge to adapt to the home schooling routine and even I, as a professional teacher, know that I wasn’t cut out for a career as a home tutor – my own children agree with this statement wholeheartedly!

I would include here the urgent advice for parents and carers, from all safeguarding providers pertaining to online safety.  I urge parents and carers at this time to be more vigilant when it comes to checking up on online activity; spending hours online in the bedroom, under the auspices of doing the online school work provided, may not always be the case! Do you have your child’s password for their device, do you regularly discuss online safety and appropriacy with your child, do you know if their accounts are public or private, do you challenge some of the apps they use or the sites they access?  Please take parental responsibility and keep our children safe.

HEALTH and safety are key messages which rarely leave our social media feeds nor our news bulletins at the moment.  The advice on handwashing and social distancing are already posted on the school website, the messages were reinforced to pupils in the days preceding school closure and I trust we are all doing what we can to comply with this small gesture.  In addition to this health care message, I would like to encourage people to consider and prioritise their mental health and please watch out for the mental health of others.  The current situation with job and financial uncertainty is putting huge pressure on parents and carers and this can have a detrimental impact on the mental health and well-being of the entire household.  Again the children pick up on more than you may give them credit for and I would again urge you to try and avoid discussing EVERY concern in front of the children. 

In school we have been working with the EA to ensure that the current counselling provision can continue and indeed extend to any pupil not currently known to the service and the advice on how to be referred to the counsellor will be posted on the school website, please look out for this or please contact Mrs C Allen (  Pupils known to us in school have been messaged directly and any new pupils who are interested in having the support from the Family Works service should get in touch.  Many of our pupils who had been preparing for examinations may be struggling to come to terms with the way in which their school years (5 or possibly 7!) have come to such an abrupt end.  It can difficult to reassure these pupils as to the next step, but I thank Mrs L Johnston for the video message which she has posted online for sixth form at this time.  The school is keeping pupils updated on the way in which examinations will be finalised, just as soon as the advice comes in from the Department of Education and CCEA (pupils should continue to check their school e-mails please).   For our pupils in other year groups it will be essential to try and maintain a healthy balance of school work and activity (I’m not convinced Tik Tok videos or making You Tube videos necessarily constitute healthy activity!!).  There are many other charities and organisations, in addition to school counselling service, who provide support and a listening ear; many of these are listed in the phone contacts posted online.

Serving others is a skill or a quality which we are proud to nurture in all members of our school community.  In the past the pupils who have participated in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme have demonstrated their capacity as volunteers in many sectors; at present this is more challenging due to the numerous restrictions we are facing.  There are still many ways in which we can demonstrate a capacity for service; ensuring family members and neighbours have essential items and have much needed interaction.  Such a large number of our former pupils are playing vital roles in keeping the nation cared for at present and we are indebted to the people manning the frontline.  The current “Clap for Carers” may only be a token gesture but it is much deserved and we acknowledge all that these people do, those known to us and those who are strangers, to ensure our continued health and provision.  I am conscious of the efforts made by those in the NHS and beyond (farmers, refuse collectors, shop workers, delivery drivers, postmen and the list goes on!); your selfless and essential work is very much valued.

I have seen appeals on other local community sites and by other groups for items such as shower gels and hand creams for the intensive care workers who are unable to return to their homes at this time of enforced isolation or for fabric (such as unwanted bed sheets, duvet covers and pillow cases) to create much needed scrubs for NHS and key workers.  If anyone in our CHS community could contribute any such items this would be very appreciated; indeed if we have any budding designers (and their family members!) who could use the pattern to create such items, your talents would also be very much valued at this point.  In addition, this would be a very productive and generous use of your time!  Fabric donations should be clean, in a sealed clear or opaque bin bag and left at the High School reception area any weekday between the hours of 9-10am (could be your daily exercise, but please respect the social distancing guidance!).  When we get the template for the scrubs or masks we will make this available online for your own project work.  Currently the distribution has been facilitated locally by Castlecaulfield Horticultural Society (see their FB page) and I’m sure there are others in the Mid-Ulster area who could ensure the production line and distribution!  Please keep your eyes peeled and your generosity flowing.  Together we are stronger.

Cookstown High School – there’s always more to CHS than meets the eye!