News & Events

Leadership Likes – Mrs Emma Pattison

Leadership Likes - Mrs Pattison

Nearly every aspect of the work of the school’s senior leadership team in the last couple of weeks has been completely without precedent. Of course, we did have ‘global pandemic’ as an entry in our business continuity plan but it’s the kind of page you read through when updating your policy each year with the fervent hope that you won’t have to look at it again until the next update is due.

Even the best policies in the world cannot envisage every possible scenario and, I confess, some of the situations we have had to respond to in the past weeks did not feature as entries on our plan.

But these are certainly unprecedented times and the processes we have needed and will continue to need to put in place reflect that.

I spoke to the whole senior school yesterday about how each pupil can prepare for what is to come in the next few weeks.

I tried to be as positive as I could by telling them, for example, that Coronavirus has had a really positive effect on the environment with pollution levels in China being reduced by as much as 50% in some cities. And anyone who has invested in Netflix is probably thinking they have backed the right horse!

However, I also explained to senior pupils that their idea of ‘normal’ was about to change and that what will be asked of them over the coming weeks, they will simply have no choice but to accept. I told them that it was completely unfair and undeserved but that Coronavirus is a fact of life in March 2020 and there’s nothing they can do to change that!

Given ‘normality’ is about to change, I then asked them to explore what ‘normal’ means to each of them and talked about how they might use the time that is going to become available to them. They will always remember these weeks – for they will go down in history – and I asked them, ‘what will your story be? How will YOU take ownership of this bizarre, unfamiliar and worrying time we are going through and make it work for you?’ I asked how they will support and inspire each other, they, whose school motto is May Her Character and Talents Inspire Others; how are they going to live up to that in the coming weeks?

I also told them that they don’t need anything in the coming weeks apart from their imaginations, their brilliant minds and their best, positive selves. But we know that that’s probably not completely true. They will also need the support, kindness and reassurance of their parents and guardians.

They will need your help to put the next few weeks into a wider perspective, knowing that life will return to ‘normal’, even if that version of normal looks slightly different once we are all out the other side of this. They will need your experience to help understand their place in the world and to try to make sense of what is going on. They will need you to help them understand the implications of being potential ‘carriers’ of a virus that they, personally, are mostly unlikely to be too badly affected by. How do you explain that to a 4 year old, a pre-teenager, even a young adult? That’s not an enviable task and I will applaud your efforts as I try to do the same with my Reception-age daughter, while my husband and I attempt both to work on our laptops and to administer her guided home learning! You may find this article of interest. We will certainly need the support of our friends and family, even if they are at a distance, and we should remember that our children will need the same.

In closing and wishing our pupils well, my words did not seem enough!

My interpretation of Pablo Neruda’s poem Demasiados Nombres, (Too Many Names) is that he tries to show us that some of the things we are used to, the things that make up our ‘normal’ aren’t so very important and it would be no bad thing to ‘confuse them’, ‘mix them up’, ‘make them new-born’. Perhaps, in this respect, the coming weeks are an opportunity to redefine what is important and to think, carefully, about our ‘normal’.  Taking ownership of what is happening to us, while accepting that what-will-be-will-be is a balance we will all strive for but it will take practice and patience and we certainly won’t get it right first time!

I wish you the very, very best in the coming weeks and months. Take care of our remarkable, brave, engaged, confident and courageous girls and make sure you reach out for help when you need it!


Mrs Emma Pattison



Too Many Names (Pablo Neruda)

Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays
and the week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your exhausted scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.

No man can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or María,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and Paraguays,
I have no idea what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the Earth
and I know it has no name.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than the flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.

It is so long, the spring
which goes on all winter.
Time lost its shoes.
A year lasts four centuries.

When I sleep every night
what am I called or not called?
And when I wake, who am I
if I wasn’t ‘I’ while I slept?

This means to say that scarcely
have we landed into life,
than we come as if new-born;
let us not fill our mouths
with so many faltering names,
with so many sad formalities,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much of ‘yours’ and ‘mine’,
with so much signing of papers.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, make them new-born,
mix them up, undress them,
until all light in the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crackling, living fragrance.

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