A year in the life of a school

Week 22: I Can’t Believe It’s Shrove Tuesday… It Really Crêpe-d Up On Me This Year!

In the twenty-second 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 28th February 2022

First day back after the half-term break… and it was back with a bang!

We’ll be without our caretaker today at Laxey School, so my first job of the morning is to source a stand-in. After that, it is time to whizz into school extra early to open up, but my Deputy beats me to it by a few minutes, and we begin the mammoth task of unlocking all the doors in the building. We manage to get everywhere open in time for our early morning breakfast club to set-up and begin.  

I’ve left my car down on Laxey Promenade this morning and walked up to the school; the road is completely closed today as works continue, but the lack of access means that our school car park cannot be reached. It’s going to be a challenging couple of weeks for the staff team having to park a 5 – 10 minute walk away each day. To compound matters, it’s raining this morning, which just adds to the Monday morning chaos. 

I don a high-viz and go and stand outside on the road to help spot children and families as they approach by foot. The staff-led walking bus arrive too, having picked up children from the temporary bus stop up on the Ramsey Road. 

As I step back into the school building I’m aware of an alarm sound blasting out. The alarm is for people-in-need when using the disabled toilet, but the reset button isn’t working. The stand-in caretaker and I spend quite a long time trying to disable the alarm before realizing the reset button not working isn’t the cause; the button works fine but the alarm itself is malfunctioning. Eventually we get it to silence itself!

I look at the clock, and its only ten past nine! One of those mornings I should have stayed in bed! The internal phone rings and I take a call from the administrator at my other school in Dhoon. It’s sad news about one of my pupils who has been involved in a nasty accident overnight and is in surgery this morning. I feel for the family and the child and cross my fingers that everything will turn out OK. 

The morning settles down and a teacher brings a Y1 student down to see me so that they can show-off some of their morning writing. It’s a proud moment for the children and their progress since September is fantastic.

A new cleaner is joining our staff team today and I’m on hand to welcome them to the school and help get them settled in when they arrive.

A catch up with my Laxey deputy is followed by a phone call to my Dhoon deputy, and having touched base with everyone it feels as though I’ve never been away. Half-term break? What half-term break? 

Tuesday 1st March 2022

I head for Laxey School first thing and park up on the promenade again, before walking up to the school. It is a beautiful late winter / early spring morning: crisp, cold, sunny and blue skies. But the morning comes with ice and frost, and the walkway from Glen Road to the school – which is experiencing additional footfall with the road closures around the school – is very slippery. We put a call in to the local commissioners to see if anything can be done about it. 

At 8.30 I head outside to help shepherd in children who are making their way by foot. A fair number of cars chance the use of the road, but with Quarry Road completely closed (and with a massive hole in the middle of it) and Minorca Hill shut and not passable, we soon have a complete jam on the road. I’m in a high-viz and help direct cars as they reverse back up the hill, but with a steady stream of children – including our walking bus – traipsing past, it is rather hazardous. I’m relieved when we finally get all the children in and have the road cleared. The workmen have been a great assistance this morning too with helping sort the traffic jam – but having put a pretty clear message out on our school socials over the weekend, I’m slightly disappointed that so many people continue to bring their cars into this space during the road works… but its beyond my jurisdiction and authority to do anything more than a polite request and appeal to people’s better natures.

I’ve been looking forward to today as I’m accompanying the Y3s on a trip to kick-start their new topic “Adventurers.” We’re taking them to the low ropes course at Ape Mann and letting them have a go at Laser Mayhem in the plantation in the afternoon. It’s a great day out and the staff and parent helpers have a blast too. It makes a delightful change for me to spend the majority of the day out of the office and out of the school building.

A great day out at Ape Mann with the Y3s from Laxey School – we had perfect weather too!

Just before 4pm I arrive in Maughold Village to take part in the annual Maughold Pancake Day Races. Lots of children from Dhoon School live in the area and take part – so even though it’s not technically a school event, Dhoon is always well represented and I like to show my face at it. In fact, I have been the adult champion for the past two years in a row, but due to the Ape Mann trip I’m wearing my hiking boots and I’m not comfortable with the thought of running in them, so I decide to spectate this year and give someone else the chance to win! My plan is dashed though by the organizers who convince me to defend my title, and despite my better judgment I end up competing… and coming in last. A lesson: always bow out at the top!

Footage from this year’s Maughold Pancake Day Races.

Home just before 6 and straight into a family pancake making session which is easily the most stressful part of the day! Steph always likes to tell me what a first class tosser I am on Shrove Tuesday, and today is no exception. 

I tune in for the FA Cup match which is on BBC1 between Middlesbrough and my team, Tottenham. A dreadful performance from Spurs and they get knocked out of the cup. My only consolation is that I know absolutely no Middlesbrough fans, never even met one. 

Wednesday 2nd March

Having not been at Dhoon School yet this week, I base myself there for the day. My first meeting of the day is with my SLT and Simon from Pobble joins us over Zoom. It’s a great meeting, and we decide we’re ready to join the platform. The moderation tool looks ideal for us. As we say our goodbyes, I notice something in the background on the wall in the room where Simon is connecting from. It looks suspiciously like a framed Juninho shirt – a famous Brazilian footballer from back in the day. A guy who played for Middlesbrough FC. It dawns on me that Simon is a Middlesbrough supporter and he confirms that he was at the match last night. Oh to be a Tottenham man right now!

Great to be working with Pobble… even if Simon is a Middlesbrough supporter!

Our next meeting is with Cornerstones Maestro – again online. The SLT and I have been reviewing our curriculum offer and we’re ready to make Curriculum our next big project across the Federation. It may involve producing our own, or buying one in, or coming up with some kind of hybrid model. All options are open, and today’s meeting with Cornerstones is entirely exploratory to see what they have to offer. If I put my cards on the table, there are pros… but I feel strongly about professional freedom over prescription and the ability for teachers and children to reflect interests, local issues and news in what they cover in class. Finding that balance is going to be interesting as we continue this discussion as an SLT.

Despite the beautiful weather yesterday, today is a washout and the children are in over lunchtime. I work through lunch in my office and take a call from an officer at DESC to discuss an ongoing issue. 

Later in the afternoon players and coaching staff from FC Isle of Man pay a visit to Dhoon School to see our girls football club. It’s an amazing chance for our players to meet the Isle of Man team. Our school administrator’s husband is FC Isle of Man’s physio, and he has arranged the visit for us, which is very motivational for our girls. Grassroots football and the local team. Brilliant. This is what football is really all about; it certainly helps cheer me up after the Tottenham debacle in the FA Cup. 

Coaching staff from FC Isle of Man visit Dhoon School to lead the training session for our Girls Football Club.

I finish my day by travelling to Laxey School for a meeting with a parent before heading home. 

Thursday 3rd March 2022

Two of my teachers at Dhoon School are married to one another. One of them has been off with C19 this week. Late on Wednesday night I had a text message from the other to tell me the inevitable news… they have also contracted C19. I knew supply would be an issue in the morning, and I had decided that the best solution was for me to teach one of the classes at Dhoon. 

My day starts extra early. Before I can get up to Dhoon to teach, I need to head past Laxey. We’ve been without a caretaker this week and with my Head of School on a course today, it’s down to me to make sure the site is fully opened up. I whizz around the building and get all the doors unlocked before grabbing my senior teacher for a quick tête-à-tête

From there it’s a quick drive along the coast road to Dhoon School. Its World Book Day so I’ve planned to do some learning activities with my class around books. The morning flies by and just before playtime I take the school in the hall for a singing assembly. By lunchtime our school administrator has sourced a supply teacher which frees me up to attend to some meetings which have been booked into my diary for some time. 

First up is a parent meeting at Laxey School. Towards the end of the meeting the alarms go off. The malfunctioning alarm from Monday morning reoccurs and we have to call in G4S to sort it out. Without a caretaker, it’s down to me to find phone numbers and place the calls – which is more challenging than you might think with the sound of alarms bells ringing in your ears.

I throw on my high-viz to escort the walking bus to the Ramsey Road bus stop which is more of a rigmarole than usual with the ramp and top road exit to the school currently closed off due to the roads works. We have to go down to the snicket, along and out onto Minorca Road and then up the hill before we even get to our usual starting point. Still, it is good exercise I suppose. 

Back into school and into a meeting with a teacher to discuss how we can support the mental health of some of our pupils. From there I catch up with my Head of School and find out about how he’s got on on his course today.

We get some photographs from our World Book Day activities across the two schools posted up on our school socials and have a skeet through the diary for tomorrow. I am definitely ready for Friday this week!

Friday 4th March 2022

I start the day at Laxey School. The sun is shining again today – what a mixed bag of weather we’ve had this week – but it makes the walk from the promenade to the school a pleasant one.

I accompany the walking bus from the bus stop into the school but by the time we walk them onto the hill by the snicket, it’s pretty obvious how dangerous it is with only a painted line to separate the children from the traffic. The challenges of the road closures and traffic are something I can’t wait to see the back of, but we are months away from that.

A photograph showing the snaking line of children we walk to and from the bus stop each day… and the white painted line which has been put down to create a “pavement” for us.

Into Celebration Assembly to congratulate and applaud this week’s Learning Heroes and Magic Moments before spending an hour or so at my desk completing paperwork, sending emails and finalising the March newsletter which will go home today.

I head off to Dhoon School conscious that I’ve been longer than anticipated at Laxey. It means I’ve missed the High Five assembly which is a real shame.

I finish the afternoon with our usual social push including promoting his months newsletter which is sent home with the children.

Another busy week complete and I really notice how the days have stretched on my drive home. They say it’s always beer-o-clock somewhere in the world… in Max’s world, that time is now.

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