School leader reduced to hysterical laughter

Tim Head

Tim Head is an assistant head in a large Nottinghamshire Primary School, with 17 years of teaching experience working in large Primary schools across the East Midlands. One of the organisers of the Primary Rocks Live conference, he loves to share his passion for all things teaching and edtech through the #PrimaryRocks Twitter chat, as well as presenting at educational conferences. Tim is a keen blogger, and has written for the TES, Teach Primary and Innovate My School.

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How’s your last term been?

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha (deep intake of breath), hahahahahahaha. 

To say it has been an interesting one is an understatement. I was asked to take on the role of acting-headteacher not long after lockdown began. It has been tricky at times, but everyone has been brilliant. The staff have come together, parents have been supportive, and the school community has come together. 

We have delivered food parcels to those most in need, and taken our school community online with stories and assemblies via social media. Staff have surprised themselves with their newfound skills as online content creators, bedtime story readers and live session hosts. 

Personally, I have learned to cope with my lockdown hair on my videos for parents. I have also learned to listen to my body, and to rest when I need to. Have I enjoyed it? I have! Was this the way I would have wanted to step into the role? No, but when these things happen you need to grasp the nettle and do the very best you can. For now, though, I just need sleep. Lovely, lovely sleep. 

What priorities should teachers and school leaders have over the summer holidays?

School leaders need to be a little bit selfish now. Many of them have not stopped since February half term. They have given all they have and often more, reading pages and pages of guidance, while risk-assessing every detail that we normally take for granted. We now need to set an example for staff by stepping away from the laptop, switching on out-of-office and switching off any alarms. There will be time for hard work ready for September, and there will be time for making classrooms ‘COVID-secure’, but now is the time for rest. 

The message to staff needs to be clear: Rest, recuperate and come back stronger in September, as it will continue to be tough. The old adage has never been more true: “Put on your mask before helping others”. You cannot help others if you have passed out. You cannot lead your school through the next and potentially more tricky phase if you are fatigued and jaded. Now is the time for me to connect with my family and friends, people who I have seen very little of in the past months. Between lockdown, work and my own anxieties, contact with some has been limited. Now is the time for me to step out and make the change. I may even make it as far as a beer garden (maybe). 

What priorities should schools have as the new school year begins? What strategies should be implemented?

Pinched from an awesome longstanding head (@joga5), we are focusing on three strands: Recalibration, Reconnecting and Rerooting. We need to recalibrate how our school day and classroom look. We will all face forward and stagger our starts to keep everyone safe. This is a given, really. 

Secondly, we need to reconnect both as a school community and with our work. It has been a long time for some children to be out of schooling. We have had online working and online assemblies, but we all miss that feedback that you can only get face-to-face. 

Finally, and most importantly for me, we need to reroot ourselves in our values, ethos and school culture. We need to live our values of Love, Happiness, Respect, Friendship, Honesty, Responsibility and Cooperation. It must form the roots of everything we do and run through our school like the letters in a stick of rock. 

Coming together as a school community will help us to support each other through the good times and the bad. There will be both. As we tiptoe towards some form of normality relationships will be key. No one is getting through this on their own! No matter who you are, you are going to need everyone to pull in the same direction with a determination to make it better for everyone.

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