A year in the life of a school

Week 18: I Watched a UB40 Tribute Band Called WD40.They Were A Bit Rusty At First, But Got Better As The Show Went On…

In the eighteenth 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 24th January

Wise men say only fools rush in. But I can’t help feeling a little more positive about our staffing situation which has been bounced around by all the C19 shenanigans of late. We are expecting an almost full turn-out of staff today at all levels including support, kitchen, cleaning and admin. And those who are absent are either at home because of non-Covid reasons or don’t yet exist in our vacant positions. So I arrive at Laxey School with a spring in my step: hopefully we are coming to the conclusion of the Covid staff absences. Famous last words??

After a morning spent visiting classrooms and seeing children engaged in fantastic learning experiences, I head to my office to join a working lunch meeting held virtually with members of the local NAHT committee to discuss a pay offer from our employers in Isle of Man Government and what our next steps should be. Media releases are agreed and a date is set for a full members meeting where we can outline the negotiations, set them in the context of our recent members’ survey and talk members through the offer. Members will then vote on the offer and the executive committee will act accordingly whatever the result. As always I am proud to be part of such a democratic association where everyone has a voice.

Tuesday 25th January

There is more union work on Tuesday with the first regional executive meeting of 2022. It’s a full agenda and we discuss a range of national issues and hear reports from branches right across the region which includes Lancashire, Manchester, St. Helens, Merseyside Cheshire and Cumbria.

NW Regional Meeting for NAHT

Wednesday 26th January

Wednesday begins at Laxey School to attend a professionals meeting (safeguarding) which we are hosting in respect of an ongoing case. It’s a tough start to the morning in terms of the subject matter but it’s always good to begin to reach professional consensus around challenging issues.

I jump in the car and head up to Dhoon School for the afternoon. I have heard lots of children talking excitedly about their learning in the Year 5/6 class and I spend the afternoon in with them and their teacher. This isn’t performance management or appraisal: I think it is simply a given that headteachers should spend quality time in classrooms with teachers and learners and to immerse themselves in the real business of school life. It’s a great afternoon and I’m really impressed with the levels of engagement and pupil dialogue which is focused on learning and improvement.

Spending time in Class 3 on Wednesday afternoon 💛 

I am due back at Laxey School at hometime for a car-park site meeting with the Estates Director from DESC (Department of Education, Sport, and Culture) and an officer from the DoI (Department of Infrastructure). Anyone who has been following my weekly blogs will know that Laxey School is physically sat in the middle of a series of current major road works that are causing logistical issues and health and safety problems for us to deal with on a daily basis. The works are necessary and the school is supportive of them: we just need a little help in managing some of the risks and today’s meeting is to look again at the school’s risk assessment and our case for an automated barrier on the car-park. The meeting goes well and explores a number of issues and potential solutions. Watch this space as they say. Fingers crossed.

Thursday 27th January

My first meeting of the day takes me to the Professional Development Centre at Santon for the half-termly, all-island, Primary Headteachers meeting. It’s a packed agenda with literacy, pupil well-being, play therapy and relationships & sex education all on the agenda.

I take the opportunity to meet with an officer from DESC who is in attendance at the meeting to discuss a current case involving one of my NAHT members, before meeting another officer for lunch to discuss ITT in the Isle of Man. Hoping to bring some trainees into the Federation in the near future.

Unfortunately this meeting runs on longer than anticipated and I ring ahead to Laxey School to cancel my first appointment of the afternoon. Must remember to reschedule that when I get back to the office!

Its Isle of Man Fitness Day and both of my schools are taking part. Class 1 at Dhoon have been lapping the playground and all classes at Laxey School have ventured into the heart of the village to clock the Ks in the shadow of Laxey Wheel. Its a big event and my thanks go to all the staff and teachers who made this day possible, especially those who took on an organising responsibility. The press turn up to take some photos and prepare a report for the paper! Looking forward to seeing that… watch this space!

The NAHT press release goes out in advance of our members’ meeting and two of the local radio stations reach out for an interview: on this occasion our national officers have agreed to act as spokespeople for NAHT IOM so it’s easy to bat these interview requests away.

Press statement from NAHT IOM re the pay offer from DESC

The members meeting is really well attended – we are the major union in terms of senior and middle school leaders in the Isle of Man and the second biggest education union by local membership, so our views matter and carry weight. It’s fantastic that those membership numbers translate into active interest as well. The negotiations are described, the offer from DESC is explained and members are left with voting instructions. We’ll know the result in exactly one week from today… watch this space.

Friday 28th January

Each term my school produce parent information sheets which detail the curriculum that children will be following, the topics through which it will be delivered and suggestions for how they can help support at home. These are due to be published today, so job one is to confirm that they’ve all been prepared and touch base with my Heads of School to ensure they’ve been proofread.

I always look forward to Friday in my Federation because of our celebration assemblies. It’s so good that these can go ahead again physically, following a brief pause in response to rising C19 numbers in the Island. It’s extra special today because I’m there to see the Year One teacher award my daughter Gracie a Magic Moment Certificate. It’s a real privilege to have such a birds eye view of my daughter’s time in school – and this was definitely a proud dad moment. I also love how the staff don’t treat me any differently… nobody has tipped me off about today, the presentation was matter of fact, though warm and touching; I’m just lucky to get to see it.

This week’s Magic Moment winners included my Gracie for showing increased focus and effort into her reading and writing.

My Heads of School and I meet in the latter part of the morning: it’s one of those meetings which gives a real buzz… so many exciting things which we’ve held in abeyance because of C19 are suddenly back on the agenda. Think curriculum, pedagogy and monitoring/evaluation. I’ve said it a few times in this blog… watch this space!!

My usual flurry of admin, emails, paperwork and social media updates sees out the rest of the working day. By 5 .30pm I call time on another week. So much has gone on this week in school, and other highlights which deserve a mention include our Dhoon School Book Exchange organised by the Pupil Council, girls football club getting up and running after school on Wednesdays, and the launch of our involvement in the Big Splash fundraiser event featuring our very own dolphins!! I’m sure I’ll have lots more to say about this in the coming weeks and months!

They say somewhere in the world it’s beer-o-clock… that time is definitely approaching in Max’s world! But you may have noticed I opened this blog with a subtle UB40 reference, and I close it with another. It’s been a long week, but largely positive. And I have a feeling that there’ll be some red red wine on the go tonight as well 🍷🍷🍷

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