A year in the life of a school

Week 15: Back With A Bump… Literally!

In the fifteenth of an ongoing series of blogs for the 2021-2022 academic year, and the first one of the Spring Term, 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 3rd January 2022

It is the last day of the Christmas holiday and I’m up and about to take down the Christmas Decs at home. The phone buzzes and I read the message which tells me one of my teachers has tested for C19 and won’t be in tomorrow. I get the impression this is just the start: welcome to 2022.

Tuesday 4th January

Into Laxey School first thing. We have four members of staff now who aren’t coming in, including one of the “supply” staff we had booked to cover an absence. It’s a hectic start to the day, but my Head of School has planned a military operation for cover, moving staff around the school like pieces of chess in a tense match. We’re operational, but it looks a little different to how we hoped the first day of 2022 would pan out!

At 10am there is a meeting via Teams for all of the Isle of Man headteachers to attend. We’re given an update on the picture across the island, and we’re asked to compile a spreadsheet to show staff numbers and pupil absences. The big message is very different from this time 12 months ago when we headed into a national lockdown after the first day back. This year we’re talking about mitigations in school, and planning contingencies to help us keep schools open as a priority. There is no doubt that it is recognised schools may face staffing pressures in these first couple of weeks of 2022; but class splits, a suspension of assemblies, clear expectations around face-coverings and a stop to inter-school mixing are all seen as sensible precautions which schools agree to implement.

I predict staffing pressures will be a feature of 2022 in the education sector; I also predict that the mitigations schools use will continue to divide opinion. You can read my top 5 predictions for education in 2022 here.

Later in the day I bring my full staff team together for a pep talk and to brief them on the mitigations and contingencies we’ll be putting into place. Despite our own staff absences today, and despite the challenges we know are coming, it does feel as though the consensus is positive around prioritising the will to keep schools open wherever possible.

Away from COVID, its been great to welcome back children into my schools today. My own daughter had quite an eventful day, and started the new year quite literally with a bump. Apparently she knocked into a Y6 child at lunchtime and landed head first into the playground. Its times like this I’m glad she goes to one of my schools as I’m able to give her a big hug and check that she’s OK.

Yeah, but you should see the other kid… !

Wednesday 5th January

I start my day at Laxey School, and manage to get around all the classes during the morning. There is a good buzz in the classrooms and the teachers have planned great learning opportunities for the children.

After lunch I head up to Dhoon School to invigilate an exam for one of our pupils who is completing entrance papers for a public school for the start of Y7.

After a post-school catch up with my Head of School at Dhoon I head home. Just after 9pm I hear my phone ding. Another member of staff has tested positive and won’t be in tomorrow….

Thursday 6th January

I stick to my routine which seems to have established itself this week, and start the day at Laxey School. A new venture at Laxey School started yesterday – a breakfast sports club – and I take the opportunity to head into the sports hall first thing to catch up with the team and see how its going.

From there, I don my high-viz for the first time this year and head off to make the walk up the hill to the bus stop to meet our pupils. The road outside school is subject to long term roadworks, and the walking bus solution was initiated last term. Not too bad in the autumn, but today is decidedly wintery and wet. Luckily the Y6 teacher lends me an umbrella…

A Teams meeting with DESC has been called for the morning for all primary headteachers, and we are given an update on the picture across the Island, the mitigations and contingencies and have an opportunity to raise any questions with the team at HQ.

In the evening I tweet that we’ve used a supply teacher in school today who used to be my teacher when I was in Year 2 myself. I include the class photo from way back in 1986. Halcyon days…

Friday 7th January

The day begins at Laxey School. First up is a safeguarding meeting before I spend some time in my office putting the finishing touches to the two newsletters which are going home today. Even though a fair chunk of the information is relevant to both schools, I like to tailor the newsletters to their sites, so I still write two separate ones. The dates are always bespoke to the school and sometimes there are little messages pertinent to one school but not the other.

A particularly happy story to share is that both schools have been successful in achieving IQM status: Dhoon is a Flagship School for Inclusion and Laxey is a Centre of Excellence. I get that included in the newsletters but no doubt we’ll do some more social media on this over the next couple of weeks.

In the afternoon I head over to DESC’s new HQ in St John’s for the first JNC meeting of the new year between the employer and the recognised education unions. I am representing NAHT. After the meeting I head home and spend an hour or so catching up on emails and sending out the usual Friday social media messages: today we celebrate the work of the pupil councils and get the newsletters promoted.

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

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