A year in the life of a school

Week 21: Love is In The Air

In the twenty-first 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 14th February

The week begins with Valentine’s Day and I awake full of optimism and love. The feeling is short-lived; my Laxey caretaker phones not long after 6.30am to inform me that the overnight storm has brought down trees around the Island, and one such fallen tree is blocking the main route into Maughold and Laxey from the North. This is significant as many of my staff team live in that region and travel in from that direction: I put a message out on our Teams Chat to warn my staff and advise them to take care travelling in. My caretaker has confirmed that a back route in remains passable.

I travel into Laxey School with little problem; I live in Onchan and my route in is clear. However, just after 8am my Dhoon caretaker calls to tell me they can’t get in. A few minutes later a teacher from Dhoon calls to say they are in the car park but the school isn’t open. I jump into my car and dash off to open up! Its certainly a more action-packed start to the day than I’d imagined!

IOM Police tweet out the information about fallen trees blocking routes into Dhoon School and Laxey School

Once I settle into the routines and rhythms of a new week, I log into my emails to see what’s come in overnight. There is an email from a parent which is quite quite unbelievable, and I take the step of reporting the contents to the Police. I’ll say no more about it in this blog: but believe me when I say the stuff I leave out of my blogs each week would fill a book, and would make for very interesting reading.

At lunchtime I receive news that one of my teachers has been successful in their application and interview for a promoted post at another school. I’m delighted for the teacher, and pleased that my federation continues to breed successful teachers able to achieve promotion. But I realise it causes me a recruitment project for the coming months.

I receive a call from an officer at DESC during the afternoon who wants to discuss something that’s cropped up involving one of my schools and we chew the fat over that. By 4.00pm it feels like we’ve already reached Friday afternoon, but the reality is the week is only a day old!

After a couple of hours at my desk catching up with emails and admin I head home, remembering to swing past the garage on my way to pick up some flowers for my valentine. I’m sure Steph will love these flowers, and the reduced sticker on them means I’ve grabbed a bargain. Bonus.

Tuesday 15th February

With my ears still ringing from the bollocking from Steph for my “uninspiring” Valentines gift, I set off to begin my day with with a trip to the DESC HQ. I pick up my NASUWT counterpart en-route as we’re working together to represent our members on a joint issue. We arrive at St John’s and head in to meet with two officers. Its a useful meeting and we move things forward. We arrange to update our members on Thursday before I head off to school.

Unfortunately the meeting at DESC HQ has clashed with my weekly teaching commitment at the swimming pool with my group from Dhoon, but this does free me up to head straight into Laxey where I’m scheduled to spend the afternoon interviewing for a support post linked to one of my pupils with complex needs. I feel really positive that we find the right person for the role!

For the first time in ages I manage to get away before 5, and I pop into mums on the way home for a long overdue catch-up.

Wednesday 16th February

The Manx weather serves up a yellow warning and so I postpone the planned ApeMann trip for Y3. Its a shame, but safety first! Its definitely the right choice. I had been due to accompany the trip, so with an unexpectedly clear diary I head up to Dhoon School to spend the day there.

The termly Governors meeting is scheduled for this afternoon, but there has been some unsettling developments which cast their shadow. The Isle of Man Education Council, the members of which are then allocated across the portfolio of schools to serve as gateway governors, interfacing between DESC and schools, have recently held a reappointment process and my CoG did not reapply. We had then been notified by the Department that our federation would be allocated a new Education Council rep and I had held an introductory telephone call with them last week to start bringing them up to speed. But yesterday I had received an email from the new Education Council member that they had resigned with immediate effect and wouldn’t be taking up a position on our governing body. It is a complicated state of affairs, and compounds my view that Governance in the Isle of Man is weak and ineffective; an opinion that was given credence in the recent independent review by Beamans. This is the system, and is not a reflection on those who serve as members on the governing bodies of my schools, who are all committed. But their role seems somewhat ill-defined, and is often superseded by department policies and officers; an overhaul of Governance is long overdue in my opinion. My understanding is that such a review is planned by the DESC later in the year.

Thursday 17th February

ASCL announce their reluctant acceptance of the recent DESC pay offer; I’m utterly amazed to hear this. The NAHT membership voted to reject the offer a couple of weeks ago, and so it will be interesting to see which way NASUWT and NEU go on this.

I take a call from the NAHT National Secretary during the morning and we discuss this announcement, but the real purpose of the call is to speak about an upcoming inter-jurisdiction conference. We hope the Isle of Man will join NI, Wales and the Channel Islands in signing up to be a part of it.

The afternoon is spent at a local secondary school meeting with the NASUWT rep and our members, updating them on the meeting we’d held at DESC HQ on Tuesday morning.

From there I head back into Laxey School to meet with my Head of School for a catch-up around an ongoing safeguarding issue. Both of my Heads of School have spent part of their day at the Isle of Man’s School Safeguarding meeting, so we touch base on that as well. Apparently we need to schedule in an Information Sharing update for all staff at an upcoming staff meeting, so we get the calendar out and try to plot in an opportunity to do that in the coming weeks.

Back at home I flick through Facebook while trying to switch off for the day. A post from the Department of Infrastructure catches my eye. Apparently, next week, the car park on Glen Road is due to close for resurfacing and restructuring works. This is a major surprise because on Saturday of this week the road to Laxey School is due to close for a period of weeks to allow the ongoing work to complete a vital phase: the problem being that this will prohibit access to our school car park. My teachers had been planning on using the Glen Road car park instead, but now it seems that both car parks will be shut at the same time. Next half-term is going to be interesting in terms of access to the school…

Friday 18th February

Its Dress Like An Animal Day across the federation with pupils allowed to come to school dressed in fancy dress. The idea is to raise money on behalf of the Manx Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) and its a joy to see our families and children embrace this so fully. There is facepaint, accessories, and a whole plethora of imaginative outfits and costumes: the atmosphere in both schools is fantastic and just the tonic we all needed on the last day before the holiday.

We are joined by Liam the Lion from the MSPCA who visits both schools during assembly. It adds an extra special feeling to our usual Friday Celebration Assemblies, and we raise just over £200.00 across both schools.

Celebration Assembly – Friday 18th February
High Five Assembly – Friday 18th February

The space between the Laxey assembly and Dhoon assembly is punctuated with my Head of School and I completing a MARF which we submit on the advice of our safeguarding officer. Safeguarding is everyone’s business and it’s important to act on any concerns.

With today being the final day before half-term, and the first week back housing World Book Day, it’s important to get a communication home about our plans. I draft up a slip and once it’s been proof read we get it printed 300 times and distributed to each of our pupils.

WBD information slip – we’ll be keeping the focus on literature and reading!

I finish the day by making good on a promise I made to my staff team way back in the depths of the C19 lockdowns. Once we were out the other side, I said I’d take my team out for a curry to thank them for their resilience, hard work and weeks and weeks of live remote lessons. We get the curry house booked and I send a message to everyone to give them the date and tell them that the food is on me. Something to look forward to.

The week started with the promise of Valentines Day, but it’s the end of the week that we feel the love in our federation. My staff continue to do such an amazing job, the families we serve continue to be, by and large, super supportive – and our pupils remain the best in the business. We’ve raised money for a great cause, celebrated fantastic learning and crossed the finish line for this half-term in good spirits. I’m lucky and privileged to work in these amazing school communities.

I’m signing off for a week now – they say there’s always somewhere in the world where it’s beer o‘clock. In Max’s world that time is now.

Happy half-term everyone 🤩

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