Principal’s Round-up – 7th May 2020

Over the last week we have ‘finalised’ our potential reopening plan. It has been done somewhat in the dark, but I have taken into account guidance from the NASUWT, NEU, ASCL and NAHT. After the Academy Committee have had a look at it, and when we know a little more, I will be able to share the ideas with all staff for your comment. However, at the time of writing we have no direction from the government about how schools will reopen, but I think this will change on Sunday when the Prime Minister makes his longawaited announcements about his plans to bring about a graduated ending to lockdown. Our plan will not be a set of measures we freeze over time. It is highly adaptable and it will always be under review. The key objectives in our plan are: OBJECTIVE 1: Ensure that all risks associated with COVID-19 and compliance activities are adhered to (hygiene and distancing) OBJECTIVE 2: Re-socialise students and provide continuity of learning OBJECTIVE 3: Ensure that staff well-being and workload is managed to meet the learning needs of students. OBJECTIVE 4: Create opportunities for transition and enhanced transition to be as positive and productive as possible OBJECTIVE 5: Maintain high levels of communication with parents and relevant authorities to ensure that problems and issues are dealt with as soon as possible.

It is right that we find our own way out of this. As in all things, we will not take a spineless approach and wait for some apparatchik who has never run a school to tell us what to do. We have used our local knowledge, the health and safety of our staff, union guidance and the needs of our parents and students to formulate the next steps. We can be trusted to do this. We have responded admirably so far and rebuilt learning over the last few weeks, either remotely or in school. We have remained open for the most vulnerable children and for children of key workers. For those not at school, we have provided a rich mix of support and materials, both online and off. And providing learning material is not the whole game. Getting children to interact at a distance has been challenging. But we are getting it right. Take time to read the letter I have included this week. It is one of many emails I receive and it indicates that we have the confidence of parents and that our actions in this time have enhanced our reputation as a good school.

With this in mind, you can imagine my response when I heard Lord Adonis had said that ‘many schools’ were not providing adequate online learning – I raged. How does he even know? We were all just recovering from Sir Michael Wilshaw’s suggestion that schools should work evenings and weekends to ‘catch up’ – not to mention the recent Telegraph article suggesting our profession lacks courage.  We will not be found wanting when we emerge. Key board commentators should think before they type. No one should be criticising the work of teachers or the commitment of anyone working in our school. We have had staff in working every day. Teachers and TAs have worked with students, admin staff have been working hard, cleaners have cleaned continuously, caretakers have been clearing classrooms of excess tables and chairs to allow for the 1:5 ratio that we will not exceed.

We have not stood still on sourcing PPE for our staff. This will be essential when we open. Elton Lane has been busy not just making face shields for care homes and NHS, but has now been making them for us. He has made 70 shields in his own home for us.  I have the acetate – we just need a production line team now.

School closures have been hard for everyone. I thought you would be interested to read a piece of

writing by Molly Jameson, entitled ‘An Academic Ghost Town: A Day in the Life of a School in Lockdown’ ‘Is this the new normal? The type of normal where we see ourselves judging others for using their cars, going to the shops; muttering, “Is that essential?” or “Where are they going?” It shouldn’t be like this. If there is one good thing that I hope that will come out of this pandemic it is that we learn to be kind. We are all in this together. There is no escaping. Sometimes on sunny afternoons or rainy mornings, I find myself forgetting about the outside world; hiding away from our abnormal reality. The isolation of the walk to the bus stop before school or the line of people outside the pharmacy always brings me crashing back to reality. Both of my parents work for the NHS. This is my story as I continue to go to school throughout this pandemic. At first, the prospect of a small amount of my normal routine gave me a feeling of safety; that I could bury myself in a conventional environment. But the silence of the corridors and locked up classrooms created an alienating effect not exactly the normal routine I had imagined. There was almost a sense of guilt that lingered too – that the teachers had to come in, away from their homes and families – it made me really appreciate them and the time they spent trying to create an enjoyable schedule for us to find comfort in. Sometimes I find going to school hard. It can feel isolating when you know everyone else is at home. It feels so strange hearing the echoing of my footsteps through desolated hallways like a strange dream, but I’m so grateful for everyone that allows me to come to school and therefore allows my parents to work in their jobs for the NHS. We start our day by working for two hours before having our standard break. We then have PE which consists of running laps, before heading back indoors to do another hour’s work. We then have lunch before another hour of independent learning. Then it’s home time. It can feel pressurising working without the normal environment of school but I know that the time and effort that I put in now will support me in the future. If there is one good thing that I hope we will learn during these difficult times it is about how humans affect our planet. Already we have seen air pollution drop and I hope after this is over we will notice the impact on the earth and try to maintain it. I also think another thing lockdown has created is a wider sense of community, for example, the clap for our careers has brought together streets and neighbourhoods together with the simple display of appreciation and gratitude. So again I ask is this the ‘new normal’? And in conclusion, I believe it is. We can pave pathways for our time after lockdown or focus on our mental health. We can make our ‘new normal’ into whatever we want, but if there is one thing we need to remember it is: “In a world where we can be anything, be kind.” (Caroline Flack)’

Thank you to everyone who is supporting our important work. Have a restful weekend