As a wise philosopher once said, “You can tell a lot about a person from their taste in biscuits”. This week, the staff at Brighton Girls have been engaged in a lively and, at times, contentious debate about biscuits. Is a Penguin a biscuit or a chocolate bar? Is a Jaffa Cake a biscuit or a cake? Have I really lost all street-cred because I voted for the Wagon Wheel in Round 3? These are just some of the questions we have been asking. You may be wondering why these discussions have flourished at a time of national crisis, but it is precisely because we are facing difficult times that the Biscuit World Cup has taken off. This staff wellbeing initiative – inspired by Richard Osman (of Pointless fame) and led by one of our Prep teachers, Helen Hausdoerfer – is providing a simple, swift, daily injection of mirth; it has brought a smile to my face every morning. We all need moments of levity to combat the gloom.

This coming Monday, the third Monday in January, is known as ‘Blue Monday’ – it is deemed to be the most depressing point of the year. There seems to be no escape from the bad news: doom-scrolling has entered the common lexicon; we are enduring rainy days and dark nights. The other day, I encouraged my son to use his new ‘story cubes’ to entertain us. A Christmas present from my sister, this new ‘voyage’ version of ‘Rory’s Story Cubes’ is billed as being adventure-themed and, while many of the faces depict pirates, treasure, secret passageways, I was dismayed to find that one of the icons bears an uncanny resemblance to a virus – at least that I what my son presumed it to be. No matter how many times we rolled the dice, the virus appeared. An apt metaphor for our times.

At school, we are well aware that this second lockdown, and this period of Guided Home Learning, feels very different from the last. We know we have an important role to play in keeping individuals motivated, in giving them the chance to see their peers, to be inspired, to be listened to, and to be part of something bigger.

While teachers are increasingly under pressure to maintain their extraordinarily high levels of academic and pastoral support (some are now looking after family members who are unwell, or having to take on more childcare duties due to COVID cases within their household), I have been bowled over by their unstinting professionalism and by their insistence that the students need them to be there, every lesson, without fail. This need to feel connected is something we are all feeling – and it does, of course, explain the success of the Biscuit World Cup, which has nothing to do with biscuits, and everything to do with the conversations it has prompted: the childhood nostalgia (think Tunnocks Caramel Wafer), the left-field choice (Lemon Puff), the discovery that someone else shares your taste (or not, as I discovered in Round 3).

With this in mind, we are working on a series of events to connect our community throughout lockdown. Wellbeing Week falls in the week beginning Monday 8th February and we’ve decided the theme for this year will be ‘Being Connected’. We are ready to launch the Brighton Girls Virtual Running Club – the photo shoot is complete and the shirts will be ready for collection from next week. To celebrate being part of something bigger, we are setting ourselves the collective challenge of running the distance between all the schools in the GDST family: 25 in total. This virtual journey will comprise a round-trip of our sister schools, taking us as far north as Newcastle High and into Wales to visit Howells. Staff, students, parents and governors are all invited to take part.

As we have discovered, it doesn’t take much to keep us connected. Whether you’re doom-scrolling or joy-scrolling, whether you’re on the wagon or on the Wagon Wheels, we are all in this together.