A year in the life of a school

Week 32: Maypole Madness

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 23rd May 2022

An exciting day to start the week! The Years 6s from both schools in the federation will be setting off for their residential trip. Usually I take the Y6s off-island for their residential, but C19 has put paid to that over the last couple of years. Way back in September, when I was booking this year’s residential, we were taking our first nervous steps back into the normal operation of schools – but we still had face masks, social distancing, limits on class mixes, carbon dioxide monitors, hepa filters and varying degrees of pupil and staff absence to contend with. I just didn’t feel confident enough at that stage to book an off-island trip, so I elected to reserve a week at the Venture Centre based right here in the Isle of Man.

The Y6s will go there this morning, and stay until Friday – overnights n’all. They literally can’t wait.

The first problem we encounter involves the continuing closure of Minorca Hill. The coach we’ve booked won’t be able to come to Laxey School to pick up the children, so I’ve arranged for parents to drop their luggage at the bus shelter at the top of the road. I’ll stand guard with the bags, the children can walk down to school and register, and then walk back up with the staff for the trip – and their luggage won’t have to make all those trips with them.

The shelter is on the other side of the road to the coach stop, and when the coach arrives a little earlier than expected, it gives me and the driver a chance to load the bags onto the bus before the children arrive from school.

We set off to the Venture Centre just after 9am, and stop at Dhoon School en-route to pick up the Y6s from there. A coachful of expectant children and excited staff arrives at the Venture Centre. After checking in to the accommodation, we are set off on our first set of activities. Over the course of the week the children will take part in a range of adventurous learning opportunities such as abseiling, assault courses, kayaking, sailing, archery, orienteering, axe throwing… and much much more.

An obvious advantage of remaining in the Isle of Man is that I’m able to head back to school and continue my work in Laxey and Dhoon whilst the residential is underway. Usually I remain with the residential, but I’m using this year’s Manx base as an opportunity to leave the trip in the capable hands of my staff team, knowing I’m just a phone call and a short drive away if I’m needed. I still intend to pop along during the week and see how they’re all getting on!

Just after lunch, I sneak away and head back to school. I swing into Laxey School and hole myself up in my office to start nailing down the plans for our New Starter visits which will take place after half-term. I have transition packs to finalise, new prospectuses to approve, virtual video tours to book to be filmed, parent briefings to plan… it’s a busy afternoon!

Tuesday 24th May 2022

I arrive at Laxey School first thing and plan to spend a few hours on site completing the New Starters planning I worked on yesterday, before calling into Dhoon School and then popping along to the Y6 residential at the Venture Centre.

The Reception children at Laxey are maypole dancing this morning, and I stop by to see some of the lesson. I can’t resist joining in. It is easily the highlight of my day:

I was much better at this in my head – I thought it was all going so well. Sadly, the camera never lies, and I’m an appalling Maypole dancer.

Maypole dancing with the reception class. I had a good time even if nobody else did.

After a couple of hours at Laxey, I jump in the car and head off to Dhoon School. Everything is calm and settled at Dhoon and I check that everything is OK with the supply teacher we’ve booked to cover the “leftover” Y5s who are usually part of a mixed Y5/Y6 class.

Next week we will be marking Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in school with tea-parties, arts and crafts and we’ve acquired some commemorative gifts to present to the children too. I use the time at Dhoon to finalise the social media PR for our Jubilee events and post it out on Facebook and twitter.

Social media card to advertise our upcoming participation in the Platinum Jubilee celebrations!

As the school day draws to a close, I think about heading along to the Venture Centre when I take a call on my personal phone from one of my nan’s carers who has just found her collapsed at home and has called an ambulance. Nan is 93 and suffers from dementia, but manages to live at home with the help of daily care and frequent family visits. The paramedics suspect she has had a stroke, so I abandon my Venture Centre plans and head into hospital to meet her and make sure everything is fine.

Wednesday 25th May 2022

Whilst at Laxey School I get a call from the hospital to say that my nan may have had a mini-stroke, but they can’t be 100% sure, and they are releasing her home via ambulance.

I stick my head downstairs to look at our breakfast club which runs every morning in the sports hall and offers a variety of sporting activities. Its well attended and offers another level of support to our community.

I then use the time in my office to finalise arrangements for next week’s inservice day which takes place on the Wednesday. We’ll be looking at appraisal (now called “professional development”), safeguarding, best practice and curriculum. Piecing it all together into a coherent timetable and planning all the various resources is a logistical nightmare. But I think I make good progress as the day runs along.

I meet with our newly allocated “Education Council” appointed Governor in the afternoon. Carol Glover is hugely experienced, very enthusiastic and we have a very positive initial meeting. I feel sure we will make a great team.

Later I take a call from my nan’s carers who report that she’s had another fall at home, and has been found unconscious. An ambulance has been called again, and I head back into hospital. We are in A&E for hours and hours and hours. Eventually she is admitted to a ward – they are concerned about her and she’ll have to stay in.

Thursday 26th May 2022

The day starts with complete pandemonium. An RTC at the opening of Minorca Hill on the Ramsey Road results in a road closure. With the road also closed off at the other end as part of the ongoing works, access to the school is limited. I don a high-viz and head to the top of the hill with my Head of School where we liaise with the Police. A plan is hatched to get the school bus diverted and I head off to meet it before leading the children back up and along to school.

Once life starts to settle back down and everyone eventually makes it in to school, I jump in the car and head off to the Venture Centre where I spend a day with the Y6s. I find myself at the Mooragh Lake watching sailing, raft-building and various water-based activities. It is absolutely pelting it down when I arrive and I’m thankful for my waterproofs, but by midday it has dried up and the afternoon is positively sunny! Typical Manx weather!

A day spent with the Y6s at the Venture Centre.

I manage to spend a couple of hours to touch base with Dhoon School over lunch time as the Venture Centre groups swap over, so by the end of the day I’ve achieved a visit to both schools as well as the residential trip. I end my day with a quick hospital visit to see nan – and once again the medical staff seem happy to send her home, this time with some medication. Fingers crossed we won’t be back here for a while.

Friday 27th May 2022

I start my day at Laxey School for a meeting with a parent. Sometimes, there are no easy or obvious solutions, but we discuss some pragmatic steps which we agree to try and we hope this will have a positive impact on the child in question. It’s absolutely brilliant that our school:parent relationships are so strong across the Federation. Real partnership, just as it should be.

I then lead our Celebration Assembly at Laxey, before finishing off my admin, signing and paperwork on this site and heading off to Dhoon School for the afternoon.

Friday morning fun at the Laxey School Celebration Assembly!

I’m greeted at Dhoon with my staff dealing with a challenging situation that’s been unfolding. They’ve tried the “change of face” technique, moved pupils around and have brought the situation under control by the time I arrive. It’s definitely that Friday feeling now!

The children pile into the hall and I lead the Dhoon High Five Assembly before going for a catch-up with my Head of School.

Friday afternoon fun at the Dhoon School “High Five” Assembly!

The coach pulls up outside school at around 3pm with the returning Y6s on board. They’ve had a phenomenal week – my heartfelt thanks must go to my wonderful staff who helped make this trip happen. I wave the coach off with the Laxey children who will be dropped back at their school just before hometime.

An incredibly busy week draws to close with the news that NASUWT have rejected the negotiated pay offer from DESC, but NEU have joined my union – NAHT – in accepting. The ball appears to be in DESC’s court, and it will be interesting to see which way the pay talks now go, especially with NASUWT members still involved in industrial action.

It has been a long, busy but ultimately successful week. I send my usual Friday evening message out to my staff on Teams chat, and jump in the car to head home.

My end-of-week message to my colleagues – complete with authentic typos and mistakes!

They say its always beer-o-clock somewhere in the world. In Max’s world, that time is now!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: