5 years at Hatching Dragons

by: Cenn John

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It seems an odd time to be celebrating the fifth anniversary of Hatching Dragons. The world is going through a crisis of a scale never before seen in peacetime. We have all been affected, whether it is with the prospect of our jobs no longer being available to us, the financial uncertainty that places upon our futures or with our loved ones being taken from us too early. We at the school know this last point only too well.

And amidst the anxiety comes VE Day. It is a day of remembrance – to celebrate our heroes and to never forget the tyranny and polemicism that took us down the catastrophic path to war.

And so rather than celebrate our birthday, I wanted to celebrate all our heroes, past and present: all who died in the war and those who are dying today to save us from this disease. We should never forget. As we should never forget that, as with the war, crises do indeed end. And when they do there is cause for hope.

A glimmer of hope

I think that many of us are seeing that hope even now. Amidst the tragedy, I’ve found myself reconnecting with friends, family and neighbours in ways that I would never had time to undertake before. I was heartened by the news that 250,000 people had volunteered to help with their local communities and over a million for the NHS. I myself have signed up to work with Hackney volunteer service on Wednesday mornings now and find that there is a sense of collective purpose and communal identity that I felt that we had lost, something my parents tell me they last felt, indeed, during the war.

And so I find myself asking the question, why is it that it takes a catastrophe to bring us back to the simple things that matter: having the time and space for friends, family and your community? Many of us are pondering the post shutdown work life balance – is it time for a rethink?

The Future of Childcare

Such questions make many of us in childcare anxious. After all, we exist to provide a service to families who, like all of us did pre-covid, had no choice but to prioritise work over life. And it seems that my prediction of up to 50% of childcare providers may cease to operate post-crisis is becoming real, with employers employees considering a “new normal” of flexible working that negates the need for childcare to the level and extent that makes the provision viable.

It is clearly too early to tell – there is the alternative view that as the economy rebounds as it is forecast to do in 2021, there will be a resumption of demand for high quality education and care. And if it does, I do wonder what the birth rate will be 9 months from now and what impact that will have on childcare 18 months on.

But for those of us who have decided to continue to operate between now and then, we must adapt to survive. And with Hatching Dragons we’ve taken the view to pivot into areas that will position us well for either scenario:

  • Our new teacher placement and nannying service intends to provide parents who are lucky enough to be offered a more flexible arrangement with work with home-based childcare support – qualified educationalists (unlike so many nannies) with Paediatric First Aid to help educate your children whilst you’re working from home. 
  • Our new online preschool will bring our teachers and curriculum to your homes, for families who need short interactive class formats for children in subject areas such as phonics, STEM, numeracy, music and more, an online boon to our nannying service as well
  • Online early years teacher training will also be available to students of preschool education and for parents, in short course format, to further our accredited teacher training provision, particularly overseas

And we’ve found that these new service areas provide much-needed support to our nursery schools in the City of London and Westminster. Staff are trained, our nursery parents can attend the online preschool and the City nursery that we’ve kept open during shut down benefits from new service areas that create a better, varied curriculum experience for our children.

Learning Lessons

This experience will bring many of us closer together. But it is also being used by some as a tool to drive us apart. Crises past and present are used by some to exacerbate division for their own ends, be it financial or political, and I do worry that instead of using this crisis to galvanise international engagement between countries to overcome the disease together, the opposite may become true. And history teaches us, or should teach us, where that path leads. We should all of us resist attempts by those who offer overly simplistic and reductive analyses of the problems before us. The truth is, as ever, much more complex than what we would prefer it to be.

I founded Hatching Dragons in 2015 in a bid to help children see the benefits of a global community – to teach them about the importance of communication, cultural understanding and collaboration so that we could work towards a better future, together. After all, the challenges we face are increasingly global in scope – they will require global solutions. And, in that, I know in my heart, we need people to work together in ways they have never before been able to achieve. I wanted our schools to be the place where they start.

This is our first test as those values appear to be increasingly under threat and so, on our fifth birthday, I won’t celebrate but I will reassert my commitment to the reason why we came into being. It has never been more important to do what we do and I hope that parents who share those values will continue to find what we offer meaningful, valuable and critical in this day and age. We will come out of this and when we do, we should do so together.

A word of thanks

And in that, I must communicate my deepest and sincerest thanks to all of our heroes who share those values, be they hospital staff, frontline workers or those silent supporters who keep our world running during such difficult times. The love and support you embody by doing what you do for all of us is very much the kind of values I want our children to appreciate as they grow up, personified, as I think they are, in my own personal heroes, the Hatching Dragons team. It has been an incredibly difficult period, but we should look back to what we’ve achieved over the past 5 years and look forward to all that we can achieve in the next.