This spring term may be more uncertain than any that have gone before. Teachers deserve a big thank you for all their hard work during 2020 but, as I write, there is still a lack of clarity over exactly how the new term will start, which students will return and under what conditions, and whether school staff will be prioritised for vaccination. Despite this, there is still plenty to look forward to this spring and perhaps the familiar events of the school calendar may help us look towards a brighter future in uncertain times.
The first half of this term is time to take part in the annual RSPB Big Schools Bird Watch – now in its 20th year. This six-week window provides plenty of time for pupils to get involved in some citizen science by surveying the birds visiting your school site. You can find out more and get class resources from the RSPB website. Registration is open now. Pupils who are learning remotely from home could take part in the Big Garden Bird Watch on the weekend starting Friday 29 January.
Registration for the Show Racism the Red Card Schools Competition 2021 is open from the start of January until 19 February. 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of SRtRC and young people can enter work about fighting racism in any medium – art work, creative writing, song, and film. You can find out more on the competition pages of the SRtRC website. The deadline for entries is 5 March.
Wednesday 27 January is Holocaust Memorial Day, an occasion many schools mark or build into their teaching. This year, the theme is Be the light in the darkness and explores the ways individuals resisted the darkness to be the light before, during and after genocide. Young people are asked to submit photos on this theme, the best of which will be used in an online exhibition. You can find more information on the HMDT website. Update, 27 January: The selected photos can now be viewed in the online exhibition.
Tuesday 9 February is Safer Internet Day when many UK schools will focus on cyber safety. The theme for 2021 is An internet we trust which explores reliability in the online world. You can find out more, and download resources for different age groups on the Safer Internet Centre website.
Friday 12 February is Chinese New Year, celebrated by Chinese communities throughout the world, which this year ushers in the Year of the Ox.
16 February is Shrove Tuesday (or ‘Pancake Day’) when, in the UK pancakes are traditionally made to use up eggs and sugar before the start of Lent, in the Christian calendar, on the next day, Ash Wednesday.
Monday 22 February is the start of Fairtrade Fortnight which runs until 7 March. The theme for 2021 is Climate, fair trade and you which focuses on the links between climate action and fair trade. You can find out more, order school resources, or request a virtual school visit from a speaker, from the Fairtrade Foundation website.
Thursday 25 February is the first day of the Jewish festival of deliverance, Purim, marked by shared food and gift-giving.
Monday 1 March is St David’s Day, the feast day of the patron saint of Wales. While not an official Bank Holiday in Wales, some schools may have a half-day holiday.
Thursday 4 March is World Book Day in the UK. You can find out more about this day, events throughout the year, and resources for different ages from the WBD website. A selection of £1 books that can be purchased with WBD tokens has already been announced.
British Science Week, the ten-day celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths, runs from Friday 5 to Sunday 14 March. The theme this year is Innovating for our future and will include a poster competition. You can find out more from the British Science Week website.
This year 14 March is also the date for Mothering Sunday in the UK, although the date varies internationally.
Tuesday 16 March is Young Carers Action Day, with a change of focus from the previous Awareness day and a move from its previous date in January. Championing the needs of Young Carers, the theme this year focuses on Protecting Young Carers’ Futures. You can find out more from the Carers Trust website.
Wednesday 17 March is St Patrick’s Day when a quite extraordinary proportion of the world population discovers its Irish roots. It’s a bank holiday in Eire and Northern Ireland.
Friday 19 March is Red Nose Day, the biennial fundraising event for the charity Comic Relief which raises money for vulnerable people in the UK and abroad. This year, in response to environmental concerns, the red noses are entirely plastic-free. You can find out more, and order red noses for school, from the Comic Relief website.
The Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover) begins at sundown on Saturday 27 March and ends at nightfall on Sunday 4 April, coinciding with the Christian Easter Sunday.
By now we will all be noticing the hours of daylight lengthening and the clocks go forward by an hour early in the morning of Sunday 28 March, marking the start of British Summer Time. This day is also Palm Sunday in the Christian calendar. For some schools this week will be the first of the Easter holiday: others will break up during the week.
Monday 29 March is the Hindu and Sikh festival of Holi, or ‘festival of colours’ celebrating the coming of spring.
World Autism Awareness Week runs from 29 March until 4 April. This year the week will include virtual and home-based activities. You can find out more and register for the schools’ newsletter from the National Autistic Society website.
Thursday 1st April is April Fool’s Day, which will make for an interesting last day of term for some schools, so watch out for practical jokes!
The Good Friday bank holiday is on 2 April this year, with Easter Sunday on 4 April, and the bank holiday on the Monday. Last year, Easter celebrations were muted by the first lockdown. Let’s hope that by this point in the year in 2021, a successful vaccination programme will be in full swing and we will be able to share the holiday with friends and family.
This list should contain something for everyone and plenty to look forward to. Let me know if I have missed any important dates and I’ll add them.