Principal’s Round-up – 27th November 2020

I am not altogether sure where I have found the time to write this week. After 32 years working in schools I can honestly say I cannot remember a more complicated and changeable week! Whilst challenges are exciting, I am aware that colleagues are almost on their knees with the increased workload of setting remote learning activities alongside their normal teaching load. I also know that there are increasing problems with complex behaviours being exhibited by students, and this is causing additional stress. I am listening. I am doing my best to improve the conditions in which we work. From 7th December there will be changes to the organisation of the school day that will enable a great deal more ownership of personal spaces and faculty areas will return. Whilst compromises will have to be made around corridor supervision, we can strengthen the covid-secure arrangements whilst at the same time also reduce workload. The standards that we were all proud of have been dented somewhat, not least by sheer professional exhaustion and the abundance of supply teachers who do not know the students and their families well. The new arrangements will help us restore the ‘gold standard’ by continuing to support each other. 

I know that your efforts are worth it. They are essential. I watch with dismay the broadcasts almost daily that send ill-conceived messages about tenuous scientific advancements and misleading information. If it were not for the outstanding education that our students receive in Science, Humanities and English we would be developing a new generation of poorly informed citizens who are prepared to believe all that they are told. The quality we see in this school’s curriculum is the precursor to the kind of work we need to inspire the next generation. The approach we take in teaching children about the efficacy of information, and developing the ability to gain knowledge and problem solve is more important than ever. Our co-operative approach is promoting social learning that is crafting citizens of the future who hopefully will make a better job of running things than my generation. 

Despite the challenges of this week, we must not lose sight of the success stories that remind us why we remain committed to our profession. My father encouraged me to always walk looking up at the world, and not at my feet!  We were congratulated by the LA this week for our low EHE numbers. I understand that we are the lowest in Devon. This shows the confidence parents have in us, which has been built over time by dedicated colleagues who understand the importance of building relationships with families. Another measure of confidence is the high attendance exhibited by the student body and the engagement with the period 6 catch up teaching. These are things we should be proud of. 

I learnt with pride that Y8 students,Molly Hunt and Rebecca Boyd, have been selected for the Devon U14 hockey team. Y13 student, Joe Crosher has just received a distinction grade in Performing Repertoire for his CTec.  His grade was unique and very well deserved  especially as he completed most of the unit over Google Meet during lockdown. Joe’s talent, skill, work ethic and resilience resulted in some fantastic performance work but also a deep understanding of the theory behind the work of Bob Dylan, Bertolt Brecht and the genre of Political Theatre……if you happen to have not heard The Ballad of Bristol  (in particular) please encourage Joe to share with you!

It is this kind of resilience and innovation that we should remember from these stories. Sometimes I feel we spend a disproportionate amount of time focussing on delving around in reasons and explanations for confusion and problems rather than taking a stance of hope and positivity. Overthinking and over-discussing can drag us down. Focusing on resilience takes us forward. It is almost as if this is an old fashioned term, but we need it more than ever. Resilience is what gives people the psychological strength to cope with stress and hardship. It is the mental reservoir of strength that people are able to call on in times of need to carry them through without falling apart. Resilience is at the very heart of well being. It is about recognising that you have to fight a battle more than once in order to win it.

We also need each other. The way everyone responded to the days we were sending students home because of the confirmed Covid cases was heartwarming. People came together with no fuss or complaint. Things went smoothly because we truly lived up to our values that day. The high levels of anxiety were mitigated by the sense of togetherness that is a part of this school.

So when I reflect on the week, I can convey messages of hope, as well as difficulty . I value greatly the people that bring solutions rather than problems. This is a measure of resilience and the courage to act. 

I hope you all have time to recharge over the weekend. I shall be treating my relative freedoms of Tier 1 next week with some caution. I hope you all do too.