A year in the life of a school

Week 13: Unlucky Thirteen, But I’ll Be BACK (With The Help of Ibuprofen!)

In the thirteenth 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 6th December 

I awake in absolute agony. I’ve actually only been asleep for a very brief time – last night was extremely uncomfortable. My back is so incredibly sore, and I couldn’t stand, sit or lie. I ended up running a hot bath at just after 3am in the hope that may bring some relief, but it didn’t do much. 

This morning I can hardly move. First call of the day is to the doctor and an attempt to get an appointment. 

I do my best with working from home whilst I wait for a call back from the doctors – my emails ping continuously and my phone doesn’t stop, so at least I’m provided with some distraction from the pain. 

Several ibuprofen later, I feel confident enough to drive into school. I head off to Laxey School, but I’m still very sore. 

It’s the Laxey School Christmas Fair and I want to make sure I’m there. Our C19 mitigations, stepped up recently with the emergence of Omicron, have seen us move the fair outside.

The staff have done a tremendous job – there are fairy lights everywhere, the music system is pumping out all the Christmas tunes, and my Y5 teacher has arranged for the school choir to sing – a beautiful moment. At just after 4 o’clock, Father Christmas arrives: no grotto this year so that we don’t have to have too many up-close-and-personal moments. Instead, Santa walks around the fair and hands out small gifts to the children. It’s a compromise, but it means he doesn’t have to wear a mask and it keeps everyone safer from the dreaded spread of Covid.

Laxey School Choir Performing at the School Christmas Fair
Santa makes a guest appearance at the Laxey School Christmas Fair

The fair is well supported, and is successful. The outdoor feel has actually heightened the festive mood and I go home feeling pretty satisfied (although still very sore.)

Tuesday 7th December

And just like that, it really is Christmas season now with the first of the Christmas Productions! This year, there will be four Christmas Productions at Laxey School, two at Dhoon School, and a Carol Service for each school in their local church. I will attend them all and it is a very busy period of the working year – although very enjoyable by and large.

Today is the turn of the Reception children at Laxey School. We have limited the audience numbers to two adults per child (to help reduce the size of the crowd and therefore reduce the risk of C19 community spread) and we have requested audience members to take a lateral flow before arriving, and only arriving if the result is negative. In the hall, the adults wear face-coverings and the children’s stage is set 2m away from the audience. We’ve also got the double doors at the back of the hall wide open to promote better ventilation – so I’m confident we’ve done all we can to mitigate against the risk of C19 spread.

Despite the mitigations and the unusual sense they bring to the occasion, the atmosphere is festive and the children do a phenomenal job with their nativity. I’m very proud of them all, and equally amazed at the how the EYFS team have managed to orchestrate all of this with very young children who have only been in the school for just under a term.

Wednesday 8th December 

My back was agony again last night, and seems to have taken in my shoulders and neck. My lower back is sore and my left leg is hardly able to move. I have never experienced this before. I couldn’t sleep, and so I start the day tired and in pain.

I arrive at Laxey School, somehow, and the first job is to review the applications for the 0.4FTE vacancy at Laxey and shortlist the candidates for interview. My Head of School and I spend the morning reading through applications, referencing them against the person spec and then discussing our thoughts. We settle on two candidates we’d like to bring forward for interview and I get the relevant sections of our online recruitment system filled in for HR. 

Into the hall just before 2pm for the KS1 Christmas Production at Laxey School. I introduce the children on stage – my daughter is taking part in this production as an innkeeper, so its extra special for me.  Naturally, I can’t take my eyes off her during the performance. I am so lucky to get to see these magical moments for my little girl.

The children do a fine job and it really is starting to feel like Christmas now. 

Thursday 9th December 

I start the day at Dhoon School and head straight into the hall to watch the whole-school dress rehearsal for next week’s performance. The children are, as always, amazing. The show will be great!

Today is the turn of the lower KS2 children to perform their Christmas Production at Laxey School. My back is improving slightly as the week goes on, and I feel a bit more human when introducing the children at the start. 

The play is really good and the children do themselves proud.

I head from the Christmas Play back into my office to dial into a virtual meeting. This is a continuation of the pay talks between the employer and trade unions which re-opened a couple of weeks ago and I am here to represent NAHT. The talks are positive – but I can’t comment beyond that at this stage. What I will say is that the talks last for the rest of afternoon and by the time they finish I’m feeling shattered. 

Friday 10th December 

C19 numbers in Laxey School have crept up and up over the last couple of weeks, and I can sense an air of anxiety starting to make itself known in some quarters. I share that unease, especially with Christmas lurking and nobody wanting to be ill for that. 

I head into the hall for the Laxey Celebration Assembly – always a highlight of the week for me. I share the stage with the backdrop from yesterday’s Christmas Production, a huge cat, which makes for a surreal moment. 

Leading Assembly in a face-covering and next to a giant cat

From Laxey, I shoot up to Dhoon School to accompany the Choir and Folk Group to Dhoon Church for a rehearsal for Sunday evening’s Carol Service. We’re met by the local vicar who lets us in and we have a run through of our pieces and work out where everyone will sit. The Church is only a 3 minute walk from the school, but the walk back to school is absolutely bitter: its soo cold today!

I drive back to Laxey School in time to welcome parents into the upper KS2 Christmas Production. I introduce the children to the stage and have the joy of watching a fantastic performance. These children really are confident and talented. 

My day then moves on to some NAHT work – a call with a member about an ongoing case, and an update with some of the local committee on yesterday’s pay talks.

I finish the day with the usual Friday comms work on the socials, mainly pushing our monthly newsletter and updating the calendar on the websites. 

I can still feel my back isn’t 100% right, but its so much better today than it has been. 

Loads of other things have been taking place all week across both schools: local radio station 3FM have been into video both school choirs for the Manx Carol Cup Competition; the Dhoon School Council organised an after-school film night, a tractor taking part in the Young Farmer’s Christmas Tractor Run visited Dhoon, Isle of Man Newspapers have sent reporters to watch the shows / rehearsals at both schools… the list just goes on. Suffice to say none of these wonderful learning experiences for the children, none of these fabulous opportunities for my school communities – none of it – would go ahead without the amazing staff team I have to bring the magic to life. I don’t take any of it – or anyone – for granted.

A festive decorated tractor visits Dhoon School on Friday afternoon

They say it is always beer-o-clock somewhere in the world. In Max’s world, that time is now.

1 comment

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