For staff and students alike, getting back into the daily routine at Napier Boys’ High School is a welcome relief – not only are students able to see their mates and take part in their usual activities, but classes have resumed in the format everyone is used to. However, the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown has seen the school focus on their boys’ wellbeing, just as much as their academic achievement.
“You just don’t know what some of them have been through,” Deputy Headmaster Bruce Smith said. In his tutor class alone, one boy’s grandad died during lockdown, while another had to look after his disabled sister as his parents worked in essential roles. “There will be other boys with similar stories and parents being made redundant, so it is really important we support them,” Mr Smith said.
They have moved tutor classes to the beginning of each day as a result. With the support of Mr Smith and the school’s guidance councillor, prefect Adam Winnie has spearheaded a student wellbeing foundation which aims to support anyone struggling during this time and provide practical resources to build resilience. Put into action over lockdown, Adam along with four fellow leaders have been posting videos and messages on how to cope.
He says lockdown has been a “shock” to a lot of people. “I have a lot of empathy for people who are struggling and need help and the most vulnerable people are aged between 13-18-years-old,” he said. “It isn’t for anyone specific. We are just putting stuff out there for anyone because they might not need it now but a few months down the line it might be helpful.” Now in Alert Level Two, that support is still ongoing and senior students and teachers alike are wearing 1731 badges as a visual display of their support. “It’s about picking up everyone right now and telling them it will be better but to just keep at it. Adam originally had the idea last year but never got round to it. He believes “now is a good time to start” and hopes it will continue for years to come.
“I just want to make it easy for young men to be open and ask for help, and for people to be willing to help others.”
The novelty of online school quickly wore off for the boys – “even they were getting sick of waking up late,” Mr Smith said.
“At first, they thought it was great and then they were bored not being able to see their mates and not being able to ask questions to teachers as easily.”
For each subject, students had one one-hour class where the teacher would set the work for the next week.
Fellow year 13 prefect, Lachlan Maxwell said online school was “very different” but their teachers pushed the message that “if you need help, we are here”.
“One thing they pushed us on is we cannot expect NZQA to back off, we have to assume that things are going to carry on so work with it.”
With the return of more than 90 per cent of students last week, an extra layer of health and safety measures were put in place including spacing markers and hand sanitiser in each room.
Mr Smith says they can “count on one hand” the students whose parents have chosen not to send them back to school for the time being. For those students, it is more to do with an immune-compromised family member than themselves.
“We are really pleased with how it is going,” he said. “Everyone is glad to be back. The boys need that.”
However, despite school resuming as normal, the pandemic has forced the cancellation and postponement of several events scheduled throughout the year including sports and the production.
Next term’s annual ball is also still scheduled to go ahead. Mr Smith said it is important the boys have something to look forward to. “We are trying to keep as much going as we can especially for the year 13s because it is really their year. So we do not want them to miss out on anything,” he said.