A year in the life of a school

Week 19: Half Way There And Livin’ On A Prayer

In the nineteenth 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 31st January

The day starts with news that a member of teaching staff at Laxey has contracted C19 and will not be in school due to the self-isolation requirements. It’s another sign that we’re not out of the woods just yet.

I spend the morning in Laxey School before heading up to Dhoon to meet a member of staff who is currently on a long-term sickness related absence. It’s good to catch up and together we complete a referral for occupational health which is hopefully a first step to welcoming this member of staff back to work.

Tuesday 1st February

Tuesday morning is my usual teaching time with my swimming group from Dhoon School. The children continue to make good progress, and more widely I reflect that in recent weeks there has been an obvious shift in terms of children moving up groups – a good sign for the swimming success at Dhoon!

After swimming, I jump in the car and drive to south to Rushen Primary School to meet the headteacher there. We have planned a discussion around school improvement and are keen to collaborate on school development initiatives. I had the good fortune of visiting Rushen School pre-Covid as part of a pilot Peer Review Programme and its lovely to come back a year or two later and see first-hand the very visible progress that has been made.

We agree to keep open lines of communication, and bounce some exciting ideas around connected to our shared adoption of work by Mark Burns. It’s an afternoon of brilliant CPD and I leave feeling enthused and with a renewed sense of drive of purpose. Getting out and visiting other schools is such an important thing to do and it stops HTs from becoming too insular and too narrow in their thinking.

I tweet how impressed I am with the school that I’ve visited this afternoon

Wednesday 2nd February

I arrive at the Santon Professional Development Centre for the beginning of a very busy day. Heads have been called together for a briefing on the proposed new AEN Code which is currently in second draft form having been revised against consultation feedback from the public, professionals and trade unions. It certainly looks like an impressive and important piece of work, but will obviously require significant and appropriate funding if it is to become a reality.

I can’t stay for the end of the briefing as I’m due in Garff Commissioners at 11am for a meeting with the Laxey/Lonan Road Safety Group which comprises school parents, local residents, DOI, Police, School reps and local and national politicians. The aim of today’s meeting is to sign off on a survey to elicit local views on traffic and road safety in and around Laxey, Lonan and Maughold. We also discuss what we hope to achieve with the responses we gather, and how to promote the survey in order to achieve a good take-up. Hopefully we can find a way to involve the school children and we agree to explore ways to ensure their participation in this process too.

I’m back in school at lunchtime for a working-lunch meeting with education trade-unions to look at the DESC Pay Policy for teachers and review its contents so that we can make some recommendations to the employer.

The rest of the afternoon is spent in school, visiting classrooms and seeing the fantastic learning going on in and around school.

At 4pm I head into the Hub to introduce the Children’s Community Nurse team who I’ve booked to lead our staff meeting, updating and refreshing our epi-pen and anaphylaxis treatment training. It’s a really good session and so professionally delivered by the nurse team.

Staff meeting at Laxey School with the Children’s Community Nurses refreshing our allergy and anaphylaxis training

Thursday 3rd February

The Island’s Director of Education Strategy and Advice is visiting Laxey School this morning so I head in nice and early to make sure that I’m well prepared. The meeting is really positive and is a good chance to catch-up and discuss the direction of education in the Island and to raise any issues / concerns from the school’s point of view.

At lunchtime I have a meeting with an engineer who is doing a site visit at Laxey School in preparation for an air pressure test of the building which is required in advance of a new heating system. The air pressure test will require the building to be vacant and various parts will need to be sealed off. It all sounds very complex to me, but the chap is reassuringly confident that he can get the building tested over a couple of hours. Apparently, the weather plays a determining factor in whether or not the test can be run, so we can’t decide a final date for the test, but we agree to play it by ear over the next couple of weekends.

At 5pm the NAHT ballot on the recent pay offer from DESC closes and I’m notified of the result. Our members have rejected the offer – our next step is to write to the Minister and CEO and request a reopening of the pay negotiations.

BBC – Isle of Man teaching union rejects 2% pay rise offer

Manx Radio – Interview with NAHT National Secretary, Rob Kelsall ⬇️

Friday 4th February

Somehow I make it to Friday – a day I always look forward to in our Federation of schools because of our #CelebrationAssemblies! Although the learning language in the two schools is slightly different (bespoke for the individual context and character of the schools) the philosophy is actually identical, and it’s great to recognise the success of our Learning Hero, Magic Moment and High Five children.

My tweet to celebrate the children’s success across both schools this week

I put the finishing touches to this month’s newsletter. The newsletter is always a big job – I insist that it is proof read twice (you have no idea how much people enjoy finding typos and mistakes in the work of a teacher – I have had various correspondence returned over the years, with red ink on occasion!) and we have to produce two versions, each tweaked to the individual school. There are then circa 300 copies to print, and it needs to be published to the website and social media feeds. All this usually happens over the space of the week leading up to publication (we always publish on the first Friday of each month) and it’s important to get this right. If we were to consistently screw up our comms, we’d eventually lose trust and confidence, so there is always a lot riding on getting this right. Of course, we also have a visible presence on the web and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – and all of that takes time to manage and get right too.

I’m relieved to hear that this month’s JNC meeting between union reps and the employer is postponed – it had been scheduled for this afternoon, but the freeing up of my diary allows me to go up to Dhoon School and spend a couple of hours on admin and paperwork which has been building up on my desk.

The end of the week also marks the half-way point in the academic year: how quickly is the school year zipping by?! We are half way there… wherever “there” may be! I head home, a bit drained, and I’m definitely ready for the weekend. They say it’s always beer o’clock somewhere in the world. In Max’s world that time is now!

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