A year in the life of a school

Week 26 & 27: Eggs-hausted at the End of Term and Ready for Easter…

In the latest of an ongoing series of blogs for the 2021-2022 academic year, Executive Headteacher Max Kelly captures his time 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 March 

Into the final fortnight of the term, and today marks the start of four consecutive nights of parents’ evenings across both of my schools; two nights for Dhoon and two nights for Laxey. It is definitely one of those additional responsibilities that I really feel for heading up more than one school – some events in the school calendar double-up the diary as they have to be duplicated across both sites. Whilst my staff only have to do their appointments, I will be an ever-present at all four nights.

During the lockdowns my schools moved to offering online parents’ evening appointments via Zoom. The feedback was positive and although we’re out of lockdown restrictions now, we have retained the online option for those who want it. Ours is a hybrid model with the first night in each school offered as online consultations, and the second as face-to-face meetings.

Tonight’s online parents evening runs smoothly and we rattle through over 50 appointments. A long day is over.

Tuesday 29th March

I’m at Ramsey Swimming Pool this morning to take my swimming group for their weekly lesson. We have one session left next week to try and get as many of them as possible through their level and certificated.

I’m back at teacher pay negotiations with the employer on behalf of NAHT this afternoon. These talks have reopened on the back of the rejection of a full and final offer with some trade unions, NAHT included, giving a clear message that members are prepared to progress to industrial action if talks weren’t reopened. Clearly it is positive that talks continue and some progress is made in discussions today, though we haven’t yet reached a revised offer or agreement to settle.

The day concludes with the doors opening at Dhoon School for our face-to-face parents’ evening. It is great to see so many families and parents in school, and always a privilege to be able to discuss the progress of our pupils… but it’s another long day and I am thankful to finally get home and have a long soak in the bath .

Wednesday 30th March

Today I am meeting with a group of MHKs (Members of the House of Keys – i.e. those directly elected politicians who sit in the Manx Parliament, and are the Manx equivalent of MPs). The meeting has been arranged by trade unions NASUWT and NAHT to brief politicians on the union view of progress made in respect of the Beaman’s report and to highlight the views of union membership ahead of the Beaman’s report returning to Parliament next month.

Back at School, and Laxey switches on Zoom for its online Parents’ Evening. Although the appointments are on screen, the teachers remain in school to conduct the appointments. It’s another very long day, with well over 100 online appointments which all run smoothly and to time.

Thursday 31st March

I start the day with a telephone call to an MHK who has some specific questions they’d like to explore, before I head off to a second NASUWT/NAHT briefing with another group of MHKs.

In the afternoon I dial in to the NAHT New Official’s Induction session having been invited to discuss the NAHT value of “growth” with new officials. It’s a pleasure and privilege to have been asked.

Joining the NAHT New Officials Induction Meeting to speak about “growth.”

The final Parents’ Evening of the week takes place after school at Laxey; one of my teachers tested positive for C19 and can’t go ahead with the face-to-face appointments, but given their dedication and because they’re largely asymptomatic we are able to run her meetings online instead. All in all the parents’ evening meetings have all gone very well this week, and I treat myself to a pre-Friday pint on the way home.

Thursday evening pint at the end of four consecutive nights of parents’ evenings.

Friday 1st April

It’s April Fools Day and I start the day with a post on social media saying that we’ve reviewed our school uniform policy and we’ve decided to ban shorts. We’re also going to insist on spaghetti shoes, and luckily everyone sees the funny side.

April Fools Day joke shared across our schools’ social media channels.

The Big Splash Project reaches a milestone today – our dolphins are being collected for “varnishing” so we have to finish any last minute painting before doing a grand unveiling of the final designs with the pupils in the schools. I am really impressed with the outcomes from both schools. Another proud HT moment, for sure.

The traditional shennaghys Jiu Festival begins in earnest across the north and west of the Isle of Man this week and both schools are being visited by Spanish musician Xose Liz as part of the celebrations. Xose Liz perform at both schools and it’s an absolutely fantastic experience for my pupils.

The day concludes at Dhoon School where the School Council have organised a Movie Night which is attended by nearly 60 pupils. It’s been a long week, but a positive one. I can go home with a smile on my face, and that’s always a good things.

Monday 4th April

It’s the final week of Spring Term and it begins with a day of interviewing. There is a teacher vacancy at Dhoon School and I observe three candidates teach before interviewing them. It’s a good field and those I inform that they have not been successful are encouraged to apply for the vacancy I have at Laxey School. It’s great to make an appointment though which brings my recent dependence on supply to an end.

I also interview for an ESO position and unearth a candidate who has great experience with autistic children and could be just what we’re looking for in terms of additional support in September. There is a work permit issue though, and my next step is to try to address that, so no actual appointments made today.

Finally, I interview for the vacant cleaner at Laxey School. It’s been a looong time since we had a full compliment of cleaners at Laxey and it is a tremendous relief to be able to recruit today.

In the middle of my day of recruitment, I have a meeting with Tom from Pobble to help me set up my staff with log-ins. Another worthwhile job ticked off the list. One day down… four to go!

Tuesday 5th April

It’s the final swimming session of the academic year and I am able to reflect on lots of progress in terms of stamina and skill for my pupils. After the previous two years’ disruption due to C19, it is a real positive to have completed a full set of swimming lessons this year – bar just one or two exceptions along the way.

Later in the afternoon I have a KIT meeting with a member of staff who has been on long-term sickness absence. We are able to agree a pattern of phased return after Easter and I’m delighted we are able to begin welcoming our team member back into school soon. A happy resolution for sure.

Wednesday 6th April

Graham Kinrade, the CEO for the Department of Education, Sport and Culture visits the Federation today and addresses staff in our staff meeting, outlining his vision and the direction for the Department.

DESC CEO meeting staff from Dhoon School and Laxey School.

Thursday 7th April

I dial into a HT meeting but there are gremlins in the system and the meeting is plagued by sound issues and is eventually cut short.

I’m down at the National Football Stadium, The Bowl, in the afternoon for the IOM Girls’ Football Tournament organised by the Manx FA. I have both schools entered and it’s a wonderful afternoon.

Dhoon and Laxey are drawn to play each other, so with divided loyalties I hope for a draw! In the end I watch Laxey beat Dhoon before having to duck out early to get to my next meeting which is with the NAHT Executive to discuss a revised pay offer which we received from the employer yesterday evening.

Friday 8th April

Somehow we make it to the last day of the Spring Term. I have a teacher vacancy at Laxey School and this morning I’ve arranged for prospective candidates to visit the school for a pre-application visit.

As usual for a Friday we have our spectacular Celebration Assemblies in both schools, and I pop into the staff room invasion to meet some of the awardees over a hot-chocolate and a biscuit or two.

Early afternoon sees me represent NAHT in another round of pay talks with the employer where the most recent offer is discussed. Talks remain positive and constructive, but I can’t comment beyond that at this current time.

My day ends at the desk, finalising this term’s paperwork and making sure my inbox is as empty as possible. By 5.30pm I’m done.

The end of the week also marks the end of the Spring Term. We’re now two thirds of the way through another academic year: how quickly is the school year zipping by?! I head home, a bit drained, and I’m definitely ready for the weekend, followed by a two-week break. They say it’s always beer o’clock somewhere in the world. In Max’s world that time is now! Happy Easter everyone.

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