A year in the life of a school

Weeks 34 and 35: At The Start Of The Final Furlong

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”….

It’s the start of the final half-term of the academic year. “Summer 2” is a half-term like no other. You can read my blog about this incredibly busy period in a school year here. Meanwhile, I’ve reached weeks 34 and 35 in my continued attempt to blog about each week of the school year from my headteacher’s perspective…

Monday 13th June

Up and in bright and breezy. The recent half-term saw tens of thousands of TT visitors to the Isle of Man, and that has brought with it increased levels of C19 – unfortunately I am starting the final half-term with some staff off work because of it.

At Dhoon School I welcome a new ESO who I’ve asked to join our team from September. She has all the skills and experience we’re looking for in terms of a key piece of work. I still have the challenge of securing the funding – a bridge to cross for another day. For now I’m just relieved to have sourced someone.

As lunch time draws near I log into Zoom for a professional development session with Drew Povey. Drew is working with me this term to help develop some of my leadership qualities and to help give me a new perspective and fresh eyes on my federation. It gets harder and harder to maintain perspective and to see everything in fresh light the longer you stay in role. Seeking scrutiny, challenge and coaching is something all leaders should do regularly in my opinion.

I’ve invited an officer from DESC to meet with me in the afternoon. The Manx education landscape and system is undergoing a period of transition, and as such there has been an absence of QA in recent times. This is set to change with a new inspection framework already drafted and a new inspection process to be planned in due course. In readiness for this, and by way of wanting to maintain the very best of practice, I’m keen to explore an interim model of evaluation for my schools. Our conversation is very productive.

Tuesday 14th June

My day begins at Dhoon School with interview duty on behalf of DESC. Headteachers take turns in interviewing for the bank of supply staff on the Island, and this morning it is my duty to interview for the ESO register. ESO (Education Support Officer) is the Isle of Man terminology for TA. The candidate is extremely experienced and will be an asset to the supply list, and I happily recommend her for addition to the register.

The Dhoon School cross country team head off at lunchtime to a school in Douglas to take part in the small schools cross country championships. The children represent themselves and the school very well – although we didn’t claim the championship this year we had some excellent individual results.

The Dhoon School Cross Country Team ready for action!

My day concludes at Laxey School where I meet a play therapist. I’m keen to engage their services with one of my pupils who struggles with high levels of anxiety. By the end of the meeting I’m feeling much more confident in terms of a support package we can put in place.

Wednesday 15th June

I begin the day at Laxey School and undertake bus duty in the glorious Manx sunshine. The road works in and around Laxey Village had settled in recent weeks, but access to Minorca Hill is once again closed at the bottom end and Laxey Bridge is not passable. Old Laxey Hill is closed to traffic and it is all starting to feel a bit hemmed in again. The main priority, of course, is keeping our children safe during this time.

A beautiful morning helps make bus duty a little easier to manage!

As the Key Stage One children head out for the day to a farm for a field trip, I drive to Santon Professional Development Centre for a briefing for headteachers and senior leaders on the New Development Matters Guidance which the Isle of Man is adopting from September 2023, with some schools invited to become “early adopters” from September 2022. Expect to see Laxey and Dhoon’s name on that list.

The New Development Matters Guidance briefing at Santon Professional Centre.

Thursday 16th June

This morning I take children from Laxey School and Dhoon School to the National Sports Centre in Douglas.

As you’ll be aware, The Commonwealth Games are due to take place in Birmingham in July and August, and ahead of the opening ceremony for the games the Queen’s Baton is making an epic journey across the entire Commonwealth visiting all 72 nations and territories!

The relay began way back in October 2021 with Her Majesty The Queen placing a message into the baton. The baton has already travelled as far as Australia, Jamaica, Canada and Gibraltar – to name just a handful of destinations – and on Thursday 16th June it will arrive in the Isle of Man, the 68th Nation of the 72 it will visit.

The children take part in a ceremonial lap of honour with the baton, and both schools are interviewed by BBC News. It’s wonderful to see ourselves on the evening bulletin, showcasing the Isle of Man and putting our federation firmly on the map!

Laxey School and Dhoon School feature on the BBC evening news!

Friday 17th June

After the hype of yesterday I’m relieved to find a fairly straightforward Friday ahead of me. Somehow we stagger to the finish line for the week with teachers down due to C19, but the picture is already looking much more positive for next week which is a huge relief.

I enjoy the two Celebration Assemblies, and spend the afternoon catching up on admin, paperwork and preparing some job adverts for ESOs and lunchtime ancillaries which I get loaded up onto the Government system for HR approval.

Monday 20th June

I spoke too soon. Although some staff return post-covid, other staff – including one of my Heads of School – are now off because of it. It’s going to be one of those weeks / half-terms!

Tuesday 21st June

I begin the day at Dhoon School. Our car park is small and is only for staff to use. Today there is someone in the car park who shouldn’t be, and they reverse into the side of my school administrator’s car. It’s an accident but underlines why we don’t encourage lots of cars into our small car park.

At lunchtime I meet with the Island’s NASUWT rep to catch up on some union-related business before heading back to Dhoon School where I am faced with an unexpected, and somewhat peculiar, safeguarding incident which takes up most of the rest of the afternoon.

Wednesday 22nd June

Wednesday offers an opportunity to get into Laxey School for the first time this week. I have a wander around the classrooms and catch up with staff and pupils. I find that when I’ve had a couple of days out of one of the schools I usually return to a stack of paperwork and signing which has mounted up on my desk. Today is no exception, and so I put an hour or so in to clear it as much as possible.

Thursday 23rd June

I have a number of letters to prepare which are due to be published tomorrow, including the eagerly anticipated reveal to parents about the class structure for the next academic year. I choose to work from home for the first hour or so as this guarantees me the quiet space required to compose these letters.

I head into Laxey School just before 10, and after a catch up with my Head of School I log into a Teams meeting which has been called by the DESC CEO and is billed as a ‘catch-up” with the Island’s headteachers.

Friday 24th June

Today is a busy day for the teachers as its the deadline day for getting end-of-year reports to me and the deadline day for providing me with their end-of-year teacher assessments on progress and attainment. My job next week is to read and sign all of the reports, and to make sure they’re ready for copying and enveloping so they can be sent home on Friday. Its always a huge challenge!

The weekly Celebration Assemblies are a real highlight of the day and a chance to connect with the pupils and school community.

My tweet to celebrate the successes recognised in today’s assemblies.

The letters are finalised and printed and sent home. One of the letters is for the Year 6s about an upcoming University Experience at Edge Hill University which promises to be excellent!

Saturday 25th June

Its a busy working day for me today, even though its a Saturday. First up is a trip out to Union Mills Football Club for a 9am start. All of the Island’s primary schools descend on Union Mills for the annual Millennium Football Tournament. Its a wonderful atmosphere and I’m proud of the teams I have from Laxey and Dhoon. A parent and my Y5 teacher at Laxey look after the Laxey team, and I am in charge of the Dhoon Team this year (another colleague from Dhoon has agreed to cover for me for the final hour or so, in order to release me to get myself to Laxey Fair – see below↓ – my thanks to them for helping out!) Luckily, we’re drawn in different groups so at least I don’t have the awkwardness of my two schools playing each other!

Laxey School and Dhoon School – Team photographs ahead of this year’s Millennium Football Tournament.

The teams both play really well, but neither quite manages to qualify for the afternoon knock-out stages.

Its a dash home for me to get changed into my smarts and back out on the road to Laxey for the annual Laxey Village Fair. For the last 51 years the school children have turned out as Victorians and paraded through the village and performed songs on the stage at the opening of the Fair. Its a massive event in the Laxey community and I’m always proud to lead my school on this day. A special honour this year as the Lt. Governor Sir John Lorimer and Lady Lorimer are guests of honour. The Lt. Governor is the Queen’s personal representative in the Isle of Man, so it s fantastic to see him here.

The costumes were fantastic and we were visited by His Excellency Sir John Lorimer, Lt. Governor of the Isle of Man.

Luckily, the weather is on our side, the sun shines and the crowds turn out in their hundreds. By the end of the day I am shattered and definitely ready for a cold beer!

The Laxey School children singing “Laxey Wheel” at the opening of this year’s Laxey Fair.

I get home and check my emails to find a complaint from a parent who has noticed that the letter I sent home yesterday about the University trip has my signature missing. It must have dropped of the page when formatting the text, but it appears the parents are absolute perfectionists and feel the need to complain. I get that sorted and decide to wait until tomorrow to post out a corrected version with my signature on it.

They say its always beer-o-clock somewhere in the world. Its definitely that time for me now!

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