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St Gabriel’s

St Gabriel’s

Diary of a Head – Entry 5

In many ways, schools are microcosms of society in general. The best lessons that I have observed are ones that have clear, unambiguous, simple to follow instructions. This allows the class to follow what is going on, feel that they are making progress and at the same time have the reassurance of a master plan that the teacher is basing the lesson upon. Those that do not have clear, unambiguous, simple to follow instructions generally cause uncertainty in the class and as an observer, one can see that can quickly create a range of emotions in the children, as their confidence is shaken and they become uncertain as to the validity of what the teacher is trying to achieve. Such lessons will often flounder, lack direction and pupils become distracted by other things. As someone looking in, but with understanding, it seems obvious that if from the start there had been clear, unambiguous, simple to follow instructions, then all would have moved through the stages of the lesson smoothly and there would be a positive conclusion for all.

Since I last wrote, there has been a great deal going on in the world of schools. The Prime Minister announced in the middle of May that the Government’s aim was for schools to reopen for more children: Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 would be able to return from 1 June, if the 5 tests had been met by 28 May.  He also stated that there would be an opportunity for Year 10 and 12 to have some face to face time with their teachers before the end of the Summer Term. Somewhere, deep in the pages of the drip-fed guidance documentation, was the hope that all primary schools would be back for the last month of the Summer Term (approximately from June 22,). Since then there have been a number of spats between the Government and the education unions over concerns as to whether it was safe for schools to reopen in this way. The advice was clear: that it is impossible to social distance in a school setting, but schools must do all that they can to make themselves Covid Secure. At the same time, the advice for the general public is to ‘Stay Alert’, and if you go out you need to keep the 2 metre distance, and wear a face covering if going to the shops. I can sympathise with those who found it hard to fathom the lack of consistency in the message. The country seems indignant at present with the issue of double standards.

Nevertheless, over the last few weeks school leaders and governors have been working tirelessly to make sure that when the 5 tests were met on 28 May, we would be in a position to welcome back the selected year groups. It did seem that there was a certain inevitability to this happening, especially when one listened to various ministers’ briefings in the days leading up to the decision. What was not taken into account by anyone from Government in all of this was that the decision date was right in the middle of the May half-term. The timing of their announcement has meant that for many school leaders, this half-term, like the Easter break before it, has just disappeared. Schools have been open since February half-term, catering for the children of key workers, and more recently you can add to that the need to plan  for the ‘big push’ (I echo some of the Prime Minister’s bellicose rhetoric,). I made this point in a phone conversation with local MP, Laura Farris, and was told that she would take it up with the Department…

With a weekend to go, the schools that are prepared to open on 1 June, are just about ready: final lines of tape going down on floors to show designated areas; checking measurements; reassuring anxious parents, staff and pupils; publishing risk assessments, before getting to grips with plans for Year 10 and 12, (more of that next time!). For now we are all looking forward to having more children back in school.

So, I finish where I started. The best lessons that I have observed are ones that have clear, unambiguous, simple to follow instructions.

Ricki Smith