Oldfield Park Junior School, or South Twerton School as it was known until 1991, dates back to 1893 and is proud of its place in the community in south Bath

Hope springs eternal in Bath following one of the most difficult years in modern times due to the Covid-19 crisis

“You have to take some of the positives from 2020,” said Dave Goucher, 44, the headteacher of Oldfield Park Juniors, “we’ve coped exceptionally well despite the challenges.”

In an exclusive interview with Bath Voice the north gone south academic opened up about his personal life, school life and life under Covid-19.
He said the school had sacrificed numerous activities due to the pandemic and had introduced staggered starts, invested in PPE and even made changes to classroom layouts.

Dave Goucher, 44, the headteacher of Oldfield Park Juniors

“The school has coped very well with the Covid-19 crisis along with all the schools in Bath which has in some ways gone under the radar considering what had to done,” he said, “The changes have often been introduced at very short notice by the Department of Education (DfE ) with emails arriving often at the weekend creating real challenges.

“We’ve had to clear out classrooms of furniture to allow the social distancing for the children, so much so we’ve had to hire a container to put the excess furniture in.

“We’ve had to change the classroom layouts with all the desks facing the front like in Victorian times. That is a change for some of the teachers who haven’t taught in that style in the past. I’m old enough to have taught like that with a blackboard and chalk many years ago.

He said the school had had to sacrifice some of the activities such as trips, residentials, music and sports.

“It will have to remain like that until we get the green light to go back to normal. We’re looking forward with optimism to 2021 as the vaccine arrives,” he said.

In the meantime the pupils have continued to wash their hands four or five times a day, timetables continue to be altered and the children and staff will continue to follow the rules.

“The parents have been brilliant,” he said,”They follow the routines, wear facemasks in the school grounds, they social distance and abide by the staggered start and end times.”

Covid-19 has also added to the schools overheads with new soap dispensers, sinks and PPE as well as hiring extra staff to cover for staff who are in self-isolation and not in school.

“From a financial aspect Covid has hit us hard like it has all schools, so I hope the DfE puts their hands in their pockets although that’s more a hope than an expectation,” he said.

Dave lives just a few minutes walk from the school with his wife and his two sons who attend local schools. Not many headteachers live close to their schools but he said he liked to live in the community and it cut out commuting.

“We have things we have to work on like all schools do but our mini Hogwarts is a great place to be,” he continued, “It’s a bit of a hidden gem as from the outside it doesn’t look much but when you go in we are blessed with a field, a fire pit, chickens, and even a pizza oven.”

Covid had cost the school many things including the annual Christmas Fair that usually brings in £4,000 to the school.

In the rush hour the school is the centre of traffic congestion although Dave said that had eased this year as many people were working from home.
However there was a concern about the clean air scheme which could push traffic out of the centre of Bath and turn the roads around the school into rat runs.

He came to Bath in 1998 to do a teacher training course and has stayed ever since.

His previous headship had been at St Michael’s Junior School nearby before joining Oldfield Park in 2015.

As for changes in that time he cited technology with the advent of computers and the internet – but another less obvious change was the pressures of the society in general where everything is instant which put new pressures on children.

Harry Mottram

Bath Voice is a monthly news magazine for the city. Harry Mottram is the news editor.

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