An unusual end to the school year

13 July 2020

PARENTS are children’s first and therefore their most important teachers. In our nursery, we take the children and expand their knowledge, teach them new skills and broaden their understanding of the world around them. In a phrase, the children in nursery learn how to learn – with and alongside others. Today we posted annual reports to children in the nursery who will be attending a different school in September. Those reports are such fun to read – capturing the children’s enjoyment of learning through play. I hope those reports are read and stored somewhere so that when the children are much older, they can take it out of their “special box” and look back with fondness on their learning journey in nursery. Year 6s had their reports posted, too. Their reports are very different this year and certainly provide a fascinating contrast with the nursery reports. This year the teachers have written the report as a letter with this introduction – ‘North Primary has been a vital part of your learning and I hope that you can take the time to think about all the valuable experiences that you have had and reflect on your time here. Although we have not been able to celebrate the end of your period at North in the usual ways, it is important that you celebrate your achievements over the last year, and previous years, so that you can feel confident that you are ready for the next stage of your life. Our beautiful school has been a stimulating and happy place for you to learn and the values that you have lived by during your time here will provide you with the belief that you can achieve anything you want to at secondary school’. The reports then go on to provide advice on how each child can make that happen. Very moving, most definitely reports to treasure.

Tuesday, July 14

ZOOM School Change Team meeting today. Representatives from all parts of the school sit on this group. It is the perfect vehicle for consultation. They know their roles inside out and provide great insight and ask really important questions. They are in broad agreement that we have a viable plan for September; it is going to be very challenging and they have identified plenty of creases that need ironing out. But, yes, we do have a workable plan if we increase our staffing capacity around lunchtimes, which will cost money. The DfE has said there will be no additional money made available to enable schools to open fully. Had a Zoom meeting this evening with heads from around the county – all members of the NAHT. Unanimous agreement on essential additional staffing costs. Expenditure on hand hygiene is huge too. Some schools have also lost money because the DfE changed the rules earlier in lockdown and backtracked on promises to reimburse schools for certain additional costs. So schools that went out of their way to make sure their most vulnerable children did not go hungry are significantly out of pocket. How is that ok?

Wednesday, July 15

NOT only do we need more staff over lunchtimes because of the need to avoid large numbers eating together and using the playground, there is no slack in the system if we have staff absence. Emails go out making sure staff register their other jobs – the last thing we want is for Covid to be brought in to the school from other places of work – or vice versa. I also need to have individual meetings with staff who are in vulnerable groups. They all need to have confidence in the plans.

Thursday, July 16

READ the Essex County Council’s Outbreak Control Plan this morning. It is incredibly detailed and gives confidence that there will be a strong and swift response to local outbreaks come September. But the plan illustrates how precarious the situation is – there are so many reasons why children and staff may not be able to come to school – for up to 14 days at a time if they have to self-isolate. I think there will be occasions when a class will not be able to open because of staff unavailability. Apparently two schools in the East of England have been shut recently because their kitchen staff tested positive. As I say, the situation is precarious.

Friday, July 17

THE final Friday of the term. Tradition has it that we hold an Open Evening – an opportunity for families to tour the school, look at all the work on display and in books, say goodbyes and thank yous to the children’s current teachers and meet the children’s next teachers. The school is full, it always looks magnificent and there is a wonderful atmosphere.

The staff have made a film for Year 6. They will get it next week. I had a preview this morning. Staff share their memories of the group, all the way back to nursery where many of them started. It is lovely. The children will like it. It is a fitting tribute to their primary school careers, spanning up to eight years. It is also a testament to the brilliance of the staff at North. This will form a perfect companion piece for the film the children themselves have made. With contributions made in their own homes, edited by an older brother, the children have managed to record a song. The film manages to capture the children’s personalities. It is warm and funny. Lots of happy tears will flow watching these films.

Alan Garnett, headteacher