A year in the life of a school

Week 4: Walking & Cycling To School Is Wheelie Good Fun

In the fourth of an ongoing series of blogs for the 2021-2022 academic year, Executive Headteacher Max Kelly captures his week working in primary schools in the Isle of Man. As the year goes on he hopes his blogs will paint a picture of a “Year In The Life Of A School”….

Monday 27th September

It’s Monday and it’s the start of Active Travel Week across the Laxey / Dhoon Federation. My schools are taking part in an island-wide Government initiative to promote and celebrate active travel with our pupils.

Active Travel Week advert on the Laxey School and Dhoon School socials.

To get in the spirit of things and to lead from the front, I stop the car short of Laxey School this morning, park up, and walk the rest of the way into school. Luckily it is a beautiful day, and my daughter Gracie accompanies me on the walk which is lovely. We film an impromptu TikTok of our active journey and when we arrive at school I post it out on our social channels.

A TikTok of my active travel journey into Laxey School.

Breeshey Harkin from the Active Travel Isle of Man Team arrives at Laxey at 9am to launch the week with a whole school assembly. She talks to the children about what active travel is, what the benefits are to people and the planet and gives suggestions as to how the children and their families can get more active. From Laxey we both head up to Dhoon School to do the launch assembly there too.

It promises to be a great week of learning across the two schools – we have so much planned , and the staff team will be doing their bit each day too.

Tuesday 28th September

We struggled with staff absence last week, and that theme is continuing into this week. I have two members of staff from our early years team out all day on Signalong training which is absolutely crucial to improve and develop our provision for one of our pupils. But in addition to this I now have one of our support staff at home ill, and our caretaker needs to go home ill, too. I’m so fortunate we have such great team spirit in my schools and we all manage to pull together and plug the gaps as best we can.

As usual on a Tuesday morning I go to the swimming pool to teach a few groups; it seems really pertinent to be doing this in our Active Travel Week, even though it stretches the definition of that a little, it is still physical exercise for the children which is very important.

Later in the afternoon I welcome Peter Kennaugh MBE into school to speak to the children. Peter is a supreme cycling superstar – the list of his sporting achievements are too many to mention, but his Olympic gold medal is the obvious highlight of his success. Peter is really engaging with the children and inspires them to set their own goals and aim high.

This is a real highlight of our Active Travel Week – he even brings in his Olympic gold medal for the children to touch. Amazing.

Without our caretaker, and also being a cleaner down, I end the day by chipping in with cleaning duties across the school. Not exactly part of the job description, but sometimes you’ve got to lead from the front and roll your sleeves up and get stuck in. I have a new found respect for our caretaker – there is a lot of floor space to mop each day!

Mopping the floors at the end of the school day.

Wednesday 29th September

I pass one of my teachers and her daughters who are walking to school today instead of coming by car – all part of our Active Travel Week.

Having spent a couple of hours at Laxey, I head up to Dhoon School and I’m greeted by Class 2 lining the road. They haven’t come out for my sake though! They’re conducting a traffic survey as part of their Active Travel work. They’ll be analysing the results and drawing conclusions later on today. All of the children’s work this week will be going up in the school corridors as displays to help celebrate the Active Travel Week learning that has been going on in the schools all week. I can’t wait to see the end result. We have a quick staff meeting at lunchtime to discuss the plans for the display. It’s going to look ace.

Children at Dhoon School taking part in a traffic survey as part of Active Travel Week.

We have a couple of “Safe Walking” workshops going on in both schools today, again as part of our commitment to Active Travel Week. The children are shown how to cross roads safely, and learn important parts of the Green Cross Code .

I meet with my senior school administrator to look at setting up and switching on our new-look online booking system for our upcoming parents’ evenings. Parent feedback has often indicated that an online booking facility would be most welcome, and we’re only too happy to give it a try. Neither of us are technical experts, but somehow we figure it out between us. Fingers crossed it all works!

Thursday 30th September

Our senior administrator has set herself the challenge of cycling in to school from her home this morning and the children have been invited to guess how long it will take her. The suggestions range from 20 minutes through to 45 minutes. It’s easily the worst day of the week so far for weather: heavy rain and strong winds, but she goes for it and arrives at school just 21 minutes after setting off. I joke that I could have done it in 15… I most definitely could not.

Tomorrow is the first Friday of the month, which means the October newsletters are published. One of my big jobs today is to finalise the content and get the draft copies sent to my Heads of School for proof-reading.

The doorbell rings mid-afternoon and one of the officers from the Department of Education, Sport and Culture has called in to drop off a Carbon Dioxide monitor for the schools. I invite her to stay for a quick coffee and catch-up. The Department are relocating their headquarters from a building in central Douglas to modern, greener facilities in St Johns fairly soon. It’s great to hear about that; it sounds like a really positive move.

As I often do towards the end of the week, I find a couple of hours to catch up on my paperwork, which today includes applying to register with the gambling supervision commission so that we can hold our raffles and games: fund-raising season is upon us!

Friday 1st October

I arrive at Laxey School early: its school photograph day and the photographer sets up early so that he can take shots of families before school. During the rest of the morning he works through the classes taking individual, sibling and then class photos. I always brace myself for a morning of disruption when its photo day: but as usual, my fears are misplaced and the whole operation runs extremely smoothly.

My caretaker at Dhoon walked all the way into school this morning as part of our Active Travel Week programme. She doesn’t live close, and it takes her over an hour to get in. An impressive commitment.

It has been a great week of learning around the theme of Active Travel, and I’m really excited about seeing all the fantastic work displayed around the schools over the next week or two.

The day ends with the publication of our newsletters, and the usual social media push to get that communicated effectively across our parent community.

Another week done and dusted – and I’m looking forward to the weekend. We’ve survived another week of lots of staff absence, mainly because of illness but also because of CPD and meetings, and we’ve managed to deliver a pretty stellar Active Travel Week. They say it is always beer-o-clock somewhere in the world. In Max’s world, that time is now.

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