It’s a hugely busy time for Rosie Allen as she prepares for her new role as the Head of The Paragon School in Bath. Within an unprecedented period of change created by the Coronavirus pandemic, Rosie is working alongside the outgoing headmaster, Andrew Harvey, to make sure that the school is fully prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities that today’s children face.
Set among eight acres of grounds and woodlands on the edge of Bath, The Paragon is an independent school catering for more than 260 children, aged from three to 11 years of age. As part of a ‘new normal’ where education around the world is now being delivered across a range of scenarios, including face-to-face and distance learning, a key part of Rosie’s new role is to develop a timetable and curriculum that suits the needs of all of the pupils, both in the short and long-term.
“Andrew and I have been working together to ensure that all of the children are as settled and happy as possible,” explained Rosie (pictured above with her family). “This is covering every area of the school, from rewriting the timetables and looking at where children play and their lessons take place, to gauging what really works and how it affects the children’s wellbeing.
“It’s such a pleasure to work with Andrew – he’s an excellent head and so focused on the needs of the school. I’m also enjoying the challenge. Having previously set up a school from scratch in London, I’m quite confident in thinking outside of the box and stripping things back to basics where necessary.
“Although we’re living through a challenging educational environment, we’re in a fortunate position at this school where we’re able to cherry pick the good things that are working for us now and fit those around what our children need from both an educational and social standpoint. And while there is obviously a keen focus on the academic, we’re also placing a lot more emphasis on social interaction and wellbeing too, which is particularly important for children in early years education, alongside making sure that they are settled and happy.”
Rosie added that for the children from Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 who are already back at The Paragon, the changes that are in place include having specialist lessons taught remotely on a screen, with classroom-based teachers and teaching assistants helping the children to access the learning. In addition, more time is being given over to play and friendship.
“Fortunately for us, the class sizes are small which allows us to ensure that there is a high quality of learning. The experience that the children are having now will also be important for planning for the future. Hopefully by September we’ll have a stronger sense about where the school will be and I have already started the process of reviewing timetables and talking to the senior leadership team to work what we can teach, how long to teach it for and who teaches it.
“I have been bowled over by the positivity of staff at
The Paragon – they’re full of joy to have the children back and are focused purely on what is best for them.”
“It’s exciting that we have the opportunity to ask these questions and take the time to reflect on what is happening. However, it’s also a challenge as schools and teachers are typically creatures of habit, with timetables fixed months in advance, and this is something that we simply can’t do now.
“I have been bowled over by the positivity of staff at The Paragon – they’re full of joy to have the children back and are focused purely on what is best for them.
“It’s also incumbent on the school to have a close collaboration with parents and allow them to be involved in the decisions that are being made – and I think that after the experience of homeschooling, the parents have a greater empathy for the teachers too.”
Rosie has lived in the Bath area since 2018 and explained that her first experience of The Paragon was through the son of neighbour and a trainee Norland Nanny who had worked for her family. “They were two of the most pleasant and charming people you could meet and it turns out that they were both alumni of The Paragon and Prior Park. When the job came up with the school, I was contacted by three associates who said it would be a perfect fit for me and right from my first visit, I had that feeling about what a magical place it is.
“It’s a school that’s genuinely child-centric, with small class sizes, wonderful facilities and specialist teachers who are passionate about helping the children to celebrate their subjects. There’s also a wonderful value system here, which helps the children to build confidence and respect alongside academic qualifications.
“Looking ahead, the challenge will be helping the children to adapt to an ambiguous style of learning while also keeping a focus on the things that really matter. It will be challenging for them to learn to jump between learning from a teacher in front of them to another via a screen. But it’s also important to teach children to shoulder responsibility, learn to cope and keep themselves safe. The teachers will be there to equip them with the skills that they will need and ensure that their wellbeing is alway paramount.
“As we work towards whatever the next few months will deliver, I believe that The Paragon is in a very strong place to look after and cater for the needs of our children, and I’m really excited to be part of the process.”