A year in the life of a school

Week 20: Unearthing The Hidden Secrets Of Our Playground…

In the twentieth 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 7th February

I start the week by pulling into Dhoon School car park. After welcoming families and children into school for the start of a new week of learning and schooling, I have my first appointment of the week which is meeting a family and a child who are considering joining Dhoon School. We do the grand tour and arrange for a “taster day” later in the week.

I spend the rest of the morning in Dhoon School dealing with the build up of admin and emails that accumulates over the weekend. One email catches the eye: good news with regards to one of my pupils who has recently sat entrance papers for a place at a UK public school. She has passed her exams with flying colours and has been offered a place with a full bursary. A fantastic achievement.

After lunch I head off to Laxey School. After a walk around to say “hello” to everyone I head into The Hub for a review meeting with parents, our Ed P and the Island’s autism teacher. It’s a tight timeline for me and I have to dash off just before 3pm to meet the Minister of Infrastructure who is conducting a site visit with our constituency MHKs. We are also joined by the Isle of Man’s Director of Highways, Jeff Robinson. The purpose of the visit is to observe the traffic situation around the school during the ongoing road works and to talk through the safety mitigations that the school and the DoI have put in place.

The Minister and his team accompany me and some of my teachers with our walking bus to the stop up on Ramsey Road. It is a great opportunity to raise some of our current concerns at the very highest level.

Meanwhile, the work continues with our playground being dug up…

Tuesday 8th February

The Laxey Tag Rugby team are in school bright and breezy, and head off to the National Sports Centre in Douglas before the start of the school day! They have a great time by all accounts and represent themselves and the school extremely well at the all-island tournament.

The Laxey Tag Rugby Team competing at the National Sports Centre in Douglas

In keeping with the sporty theme for the day, I head off to Ramsey Swimming Pool to teach my group from Dhoon School. Great to see the continuing progress of all our swimmers.

I head back to Laxey School for the afternoon and delve into a safeguarding issue that has arisen. Just before home-time I head into the hall for a whole-school assembly where my Head of School announces the “Class of the Fortnight” winners and we bid goodbye to a member of teaching staff who is moving on to a new job in another school.

The playground digging continues and the workmen make a fascinating discovery…

Wednesday 9th February

I head into Laxey School and there is a peculiar object on my desk as I enter my office. A somewhat plain-looking honey pot type thing is mysteriously sitting there. I make a couple of vague enquiries with various members of staff as they pass by: but all I can get is that “Mr Clague will speak to you about that… there’s a story attached to it.” Intriguing…

A mystery object appears on my desk…

I’m in Laxey again this morning because it’s the first day that our Y3 class will be with an interim supply teacher following yesterday’s staff departure, and I want to make sure everything is tip top and ship shape for them.

First up is a tennis session for the Y3s with an external provider arriving to take the class. After playtime we welcome the team from Young Engineers who are running a STEM (science, tech, engineering, maths) workshop for the rest of the day. This involves splitting the class into two groups, rearranging the furniture in the classroom, setting out resources and making arrangements for those children who will need some special-access provision due to their particular needs. Our interim supply teacher is thrown in the deep end but does a sterling job with organising all these things so that the day runs really smoothly. The children have a fab time and learn loads: it’s a great opportunity for me to spend a good chunk of my time back in a classroom too. Good for the soul.

After school it’s straight into a full staff meeting, which through the wonders of Zoom is held in the Hub with our Dhoon colleagues joining virtually on the big screen. The meeting is focused on reviewing our first aid procedures and associated paperwork, and Mr Clague does a superb job in running us through his research and recommendations. There will be policy change on the back of this meeting, but I’ll need a working group to pull that together for me, and I end the meeting asking for volunteers to step forward.

I try to catch Mr Clague before he shoots off, but I get caught up in the after-meeting debriefs that sprout up informally around the room. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to get to the bottom of the honey pot story…

Thursday 10th February

My first appointment of the day is at the Comis Hotel for the termly Senior Leaders meeting for all HTs and other senior staff working within DESC. It’s a packed agenda looking at partnerships with Manx Care, the Police and an update / overview from the Department’s CEO. As always at these meetings it’s great to catch up with HT colleagues from across the Isle of Man and discuss the hot topics of the day.

DESC Senior leaders’ meeting at the Comis Hotel

It’s a bit of race back to school for the afternoon where I’ve scheduled a professional conversation with each member of support staff. I had these professional, but informal, catch ups over coffee with my teachers a couple of weeks back and it’s equally rewarding to run them today with my valued support staff. We touch base on contracts, timetabling, CPD and a whole host of other individual concerns.

My final meeting of the day is with my infants’ SENCO and EYFS team to review how things are going for our child with complex needs in Reception. The team have done a phenomenal job and the child is making great progress at Laxey School. We discuss budgets, resources and tweak some of the routines we’ve had in place.

Before calling it a day I finally manage to catch up with Mr Clague to ask about the mystery honey pot on my desk. Apparently, on Tuesday the workmen in our yard came across three ceramic pots buried deep within the playground. I was off-site and the discovery was reported to Mr Clague who left one of the finds on my desk. Sadly the other two pots were accidentally smashed to smithereens by the digger. But what a mystery! The digging is very deep – they’re installing a storm drain amongst other things – so how did this rather strange object end up buried in such a random location? We have a Laxey School mystery on our hands!

Friday 11th February

I start my day at Dhoon School – I want to be there to welcome the family I’d offered a “taster day” to on Monday. I meet the child and take her through to her class for the day and help settled her in.

I spend the morning catching up with colleagues at Dhoon – the way this week has fallen has meant that most of my time has been devoted to the Laxey site. You get weeks like this sometimes, where the balance between the two schools isn’t entirely equal. I’m blessed to have such a good team who get by just fine without me.

The schools are taking part in the Big Splash Dolphin Fundraiser for Hospice IOM and I have a look at some of the designs that have come in… we have some talented and imaginative pupils!

Big Splash designs coming in thick and fast at Dhoon School

At playtime I drive down to Laxey School for their Celebration Assembly and settle in for the rest of the day at Laxey. My daughter, Gracie, received a Magic Moment certificate a couple of weeks ago and she’s built on that success and achieved the Learning Hero badge this week. Proud dad moment for sure.

Gracie receives this week’s Y1 Learning Hero certificate in Celebration Assembly!

The afternoon is dedicated to interviews for a new Y3 teacher and we have a pretty formidable selection process involving unseen written tasks, safeguarding scenarios, lesson observations and formal interviews. I’m shattered by the end of the afternoon – so goodness knows how the candidates feel! The recruitment panel deliberates and reaches a decision: I hope to have more news about that in due course!

Just as I’m winding down and thinking about going home I’m made aware of some commotion and a bit of an incident. I won’t elaborate in this blog as to what went on, but suffice to say it kept me firmly at school dealing with the aftermath until quite late.

But don’t worry – it wasn’t to do with the honey pot. That remains in one piece and has pride of place on my desk.

Secrets unearthed from the school playground… now sitting on my desk at Laxey School

Finally, I head off home. It’s been a long week, and once again the construction works have loomed large over everything. They say that somewhere in the world it’s always beer o’clock. In Max’s world that time is now, and as I pour myself a pint I reflect on the discoveries from my school playground and wonder what else we’ll find next week….

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