A year in the life of a school

Week 23: Keeping My C19-Free Streak Alive… Just

In the twenty-third 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 March

I awake to the news that our Laxey site caretaker remains absent from work. This does pose some interesting questions for a longer-term caretaker absence… here in the Isle of Man, caretakers are employed and “managed” centrally within the Department of Education, but when a caretaker is absent it is proving difficult for schools to source supply cover. The Department don’t seem to have a pool of people to call upon and the line between whose responsibility it is to find cover is increasingly blurry. I also have questions over the regularity of fire alarm testing, and who should be opening up / securing the school building at the end of the day. As things stand, there is no one else to pick up these additional responsibilities, and so it is falling on me.

I arrive at Laxey School and my first meeting of the day is with some parents to discuss an ongoing matter. From there I spend time at my desk completing admin and paperwork and clearing my weekend inbox of emails.

Just before 10.30am, Paul Moores arrives from the Leprosy Mission to deliver a whole-school assembly. Word reaches me from the staff at Dhoon that his arrival is unexpected and caused slight panic. His arrival at Laxey seems equally unexpected, except to me who knew of his appointment. I do a quick check and the email appointment had saved in my personal diary rather than the school diary, so it seems I was the only person who knew about these assemblies today!

We quickly gather together the classes and Paul delivers a really informative assembly and raises awarenesss of this unfortunate disease.

The construction team call in to school to see me and pass on the good news that Quarry Road is almost finished and will be open again at some point tomorrow which means we can have use of the staff car park again from Wednesday. It’s positive news to end the day on. I let the staff team know the news.

Tuesday 8th March

We’ve had two teachers off school at Dhoon for the last week with C19, and finding supply has been a real struggle. I awake to the news today that the supply teacher we had sourced and been using for the last day or so has now contracted C19 too. This is the last thing I need and job one of the day is to work out how to cover my Y5/6 class at Dhoon. The school administrator and I try our best, but its a fruitless task.

I take the class, even though I have a busy schedule for the day, and I clear my diary to do so. Somehow we concoct a plan for cover for the rest of the week – sometimes me, sometimes other staff in the school through doubling up etc, and sometimes “borrowing” a support staff member from Laxey. It’s not exactly ideal, but it does mean we manage to keep the school operating and have an adult in front of children in each class.

Despite the challenges, I actually enjoy the day a lot and its great to spend time with this class.

Wednesday 9th March

I start the day in Dhoon School again, though today someone is travelling up from Laxey to cover the class. This frees me to start playing catch-up on the backlog of workload that had to be delayed yesterday.

There is a series of assemblies planned for this morning. First up its the Isle of Man Arts Council who are here to talk a little bit about their involvement with the Big Splash Dolphin Fundraiser we are a part of. After that, our Open the Book team arrive to deliver an assembly, which, as always, is well received.

IOM Arts Council Assembly

Dhoon School has been running a cake sale at playtimes this week in recognition of Fair Trade, and at playtime I have a little wander down to see the School Council selling the cakes.

The School Council host a Fair Trade Bake Sale

News from the Laxey Staff filters through that everyone is able to make use of the car park. Happy days.!!

Thursday 10th March

Today I’m able to spend time at both schools. Things have settled down at Dhoon, and although our teachers remain off with C19, one of them is due out of isolation tomorrow and that should help ease things.

In the afternoon I travel to St Johns School for an NAHT Executive Committee meeting. We have to plan out the AGM and members meeting which is scheduled for Monday. I let the team know that I won’t be putting myself forward for re-election to the Branch Secretary role although I’d be happy to be elected on to the Executive in a supporting role. There are many reasons for this decision, but the main one is that after several years of industrial dispute and big changes in the world of education in the Isle of Man that have been achieved on the back of strong campaigning, we have completely different faces on the employers side of the table. I feel that a change of face on our side of the table is the next step required in helping to bury the past, and start allowing everyone to move forwards with clean, new relationships which will hopefully build positivity and collaboration.

Friday 11th March

The morning offers me just the tonic I needed after a busy and challenging week. I accompany the Dhoon School Council on a trip to Manx Radio which is excellent. We’ve been invited in response to taking part in a feature called Small Talk and the radio staff give the children a really fab experience today – including allowing them to speak on air.

School Council visit Manx Radio

Back at school, and a candidate for a vacant teaching position at Dhoon visits and I give them the grand tour. The closing date is next week, and so far we’ve experienced some modest interest. Hopefully the right person exists within this small pool!

As is usual on a Friday I spend some time on comms, and update the socials and the websites. I get a message from the Admin Secretary at NAHT who has just tested positive for C19. I had sat next to him for a couple of hours yesterday at the Exec meeting and so I race home to test myself. I’m negative.

Whisper it… I am still yet to go down with C19. I can’t quite believe that we’re this far into the pandemic and I still haven’t caught it. How much longer can my streak remain?

It’s certainly been a long and busy week; I’m more than ready for a Friday night chill. What will next week bring!?

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