At the beginning of lockdown, I moved to a temporary office in The Vicarage building – an office that, under normal circumstances, is the home of our SENCO, Valeria Zinola. It is a lovely space, it has served me well, and I have appreciated in particular the message that greets me every day through the three words pinned on the wall: “embracing… thinking differently”.

I can’t think of a better mantra for these times. The impact of Covid-19 has forced us all to find new ways of doing things, and we have well-and-truly demonstrated the truth in our Grandmother’s wisdom, “necessity is the mother of invention”. The staff and students at Brighton Girls have certainly embraced the opportunity to be creative. Today, our Year 8s have enjoyed a virtual trip to Pompeii: they set off this morning, furnished with a virtual plane ticket, an Italian phrase book, a guide book, along with a series of 3D tours – and what trip would be complete without an ice-cream stop along the way? I joined Miss Gandy’s briefing session this morning and was amused to see that one student had taken a flexible approach to the itinerary and was tucking into her ice cream at 9am. Next week, you will have the opportunity to hear our entry for the GDST-vision Song Contest (an idea that sprang up at Trust Office, after the cancellation of Eurovision left a gap in our lives). I can’t wait for you to hear (and see) what our ‘Choir in the Cloud’ has produced. I am grateful to all the girls who took part, to Alysia Woodcock and Dan Walton for their help, and a special mention must go to Miriam Roberts, who has driven the project and pulled it all together with such enthusiasm and ingenuity. As we prepare for the possibility of reopening the Prep site to four year groups, creativity is being expressed in a more urgent sense: social bubbles, social distancing, staggered break times – all these present challenges that can only be overcome by being inventive, by looking at what has worked elsewhere, by learning from others, collaborating, adapting, being resourceful…

There is something familiar about that list above: these are the words and phrases that have been voiced in educational circles for years. Necessity has underlined their significance, and our current situation has brought into sharp relief why these are the very traits we should be nurturing in our students. Before I arrived at Brighton Girls I enjoyed reading Matthew Syed’s ‘Rebel Ideas’, a work that makes a resounding case for thinking differently, but which demonstrates how difficult this is for most of us to achieve. But let’s not forget that the words “thinking differently” have been on the wall in our SENDCO’s office for years. Thinking differently is something that comes naturally to many individuals in our community and, Matthew Syed proposes in ‘Rebel Ideas’, we must celebrate, and actively seek out ‘cognitive diversity’ in everything we do.

Our challenge is to take some of the creative ideas that have emerged during lockdown and carry them with us as, and when, we return to (relative) normality. Over the last two weeks, for example, I have enjoyed my weekly ‘Coffee & Chat’ sessions with parents and, as one parent pointed out, the virtual format has allowed some to attend who otherwise would have struggled due to work commitments, or travel restraints. There is no reason why we can’t replicate this, along with other aspects of our lockdown experience, even when we no longer strictly “need” them.

We just have to think differently.