Message to the Ampleforth Society from Robin Dyer
We are delighted to share a message to members of the Ampleforth Society from Robin Dyer, Head of Ampleforth College.
It is not sensible to try to underplay the difficulty that a boarding school like Ampleforth faces in the current circumstances. The whole world is facing a variety of huge challenges brought on by Coronavirus, illness and death, and the collateral damage of the economic downturn. It is perhaps not surprising that thousands of us have found solace in the live streamed services from the Abbey Church and Fr Ambrose’s video messages.
The difficulties presented by this extraordinary time, confirm the need for Ampleforth to offer not just a first class all round Catholic education, but also the richness of its wider community bound together by the strength of its ethos and shared values. During my time here, I have tried to breathe new life into the Benedictine Values and strengthen the relationship between the College and the wider Ampleforth family. We are committed, now more than ever, to ensuring that our students don’t lose those things that Society members know make the Ampleforth experience so special.
Students who were working towards their GCSE and A level exams now feel in limbo as they await grades awarded on the basis of previous work. Other students may be worrying that their academic progress will be hampered by the physical closure of the College. There has been a great drive to make a success of online education, which, with a nod to the Yorkshire dialect, we are calling e-Ampleforth.
e-Ampleforth learning and teaching will run on our normal timetable, with work set and explained via video. There will be group and one to one tutorials, pastoral care from House parents, spiritual care from Chaplains, School assemblies, House assemblies, House prayers, arts and cultural enrichment opportunities, sport, co-curricular activities, careers guidance, and personal development through charity, service and leadership opportunities.
Year 13 and Year 11 courses will consolidate learning, in case students choose to take Autumn exams to confirm their grades. Alongside this, bespoke programmes will prepare them for their future studies. For Year 11 this will be a focused introductory course to their A level and BTEC choices along with a research project to develop independent learning skills. Each Year 13 student has a bespoke programme of seminar/tutorial-based project work focused on their planned university course, including study skills and life skills.
So many of you have been in touch over recent years offering to support our school and students. Learning from the experience of those who have journeyed through Ampleforth already will be invaluable in shaping the future for those students most impacted by this time of uncertainty. If you are prepared to help Year 13 and Year 12 (whose higher education careers day at the end of last term was cancelled thanks to Coronavirus), by recording your careers advice and practical tips, this personal contact could be life-changing for our soon to be OAs. Further details can be found in the articles on how Society members can offer career guidance and university tips.
The response from the Ampleforth community so far has been inspirational. Parents, facing their own huge pressures, for the most part have been phlegmatic about boarding fees being cut by a third. In acts of great generosity, some have offered to pay the full amount to subsidise those who are finding the reduced fee too much in this difficult time. Half of the staff have been furloughed as per the government’s scheme, the other half have been notified of salary cuts. Despite the uncertainty and stress of this unusual situation there has not been, to my ears anyway, a whisper of anger or bitterness from staff.
In September, we were planning to launch a programme of greater independent teaching, learning and coping to chime with the key elements of Catholic education. Little did we know that Coronavirus would give this an immediate impetus via e-Ampleforth. It is outstanding how teaching staff have so quickly recognised this opportunity and are working tirelessly to turn it into a positive that will benefit Ampleforth students long after the coronavirus vaccine is found.
The connections through e-Ampleforth cannot replace the profound interactions of daily life in the valley, but the Benedictine Values have to be lived in a new and more compelling way. As does our connection with our friends in the Ampleforth Society. We extend to you all the hand of hospitality and the possibility of making, in these difficult times, the Ampleforth family even stronger. Once this is over, we cannot wait to invite you all back here to your home in the valley.
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