Monday, June 22

FIRST day back for Nursery, Reception and Year One. That is seven bubbles in total. Everything seemed to go to plan. The staggered timings worked; home school accords were signed and handed in; the one-way system on and off the site worked and the yellow dots on the playground to indicate where to line up worked. The parents behaved impeccably– well nearly all! A couple had to sit on the naughty step for minor misdemeanours. Most importantly, the children soon settled into their bubbles. One little girl, Doris, had the thrill of returning to school on her sixth birthday. The bubbles are set up, following the government guidance to enable social distancing to happen but children cannot keep to that every minute and there are many other risk minimising measures in place: staff not mixing, ventilation, outdoor activities, limiting resources, regular hand washing, regular cleaning of surfaces, fresh clothing every day and parents and staff know that swift action would be taken if someone is symptomatic. I thanked the staff for adapting to their new working environment and doing a fantastic job, as they always do.

Tuesday, June 23

THIS morning I had a telephone interview with an HMI seconded to the local authority. He was asking me about my plans for September. I told him I am in the process of consulting with senior leaders about this ahead of a teacher meeting tomorrow. I told him the same as what I wrote to parents yesterday – “the government are saying that all children will be back full-time. This would be lovely but is a logistical impossibility under the current arrangements. We are waiting for the guidance on how this can be achieved. You may or may not be surprised to know that headteachers do not get told of the government’s plans before you do. And given the uncertainty of Covid, the guidance may change in August. In the meantime, we are planning for the bit that we can control—putting the interests of your children first. You will receive more detailed information soon.”

Watched the PM lead the daily briefing – the last one – at 5pm. He announced a range of measures easing lockdown and repeated the pledge that all schools would have all children in school in September in bubbles of 30. Still no detail as to how that can happen. At least in primary children are generally taught in the same classroom by the same teacher. Secondary schools face far bigger challenges. Maybe the students will do a week of one subject with one teacher and then the school is deep cleaned over the weekend and the children are taught a different subject the following week.

Wednesday, June 24

I do love holding remote meetings. I can put everybody on mute! Teacher meeting after school. I shared my thinking about the organisation for September, basing my plans on what we know: some children have done lots of work and made good use of their time; some children have not and may be completely out of routine; some may struggle to return and all may struggle with stamina – they will not be match fit for five days full on, but children are amazingly resilient so returning to a place where they feel secure and get to see their friends will enable them to settle quickly. We also know that Covid-19 is not going away.

What we don’t know is: what the guidance will be regarding the school offer in September; which children are going to struggle upon their return and we will not make assumptions about that, and what the gaps are in their learning and we will not make assumptions about that either.

So, in September, as much as is possible, we want the children to return to a school they are familiar with – same classroom, same staff who they know well and know them best. I hear worrying things that schools are talking of getting the children to sit tests as soon as they return and then cramming them so they “catch up”. This will not be the approach at North. The Broad and Balanced Curriculum is sacrosanct– we will not punish the children for being isolated at home in lockdown. We are not testing and cramming. And the research backs this up. The evidence from countries where their school system shut down for several months –like in New Zealand after their earthquake in 2011 – is really helpful and should be used to help with our planning.

In September the children will start off where they left off and, once their teachers have got them back into the routine and we have a clear understanding of their emotional health and where they are with their learning, they will then transition into their new classes. How long this will take will be determined by the government guidance on school opening. Hopefully no more than two –to three weeks.

This plan is well received by the teachers.

Oh my goodness, get home, sit in the garden and read the government’s updated guidance: the DfE has re-written history. "Primary pupils do not and have not needed to be kept apart in the classroom". This is blatantly untrue and is quickly proven to be so on social media and print media – showing the wording in the original guidance. Seemingly the DfE are implying, the measures put in place have not all been necessary. The DfE is actually gaslighting schools – trying to blame us for the low numbers of children in schools. This won’t do and it will undermine their efforts to get every child back. They still need to build parental confidence and reassure staff too. They won’t achieve this by behaving dishonestly.

Thursday, June 25

FINALLY some sensible news coming out of the DfE. The new national Baseline assessment system to be introduced for our rising 5s starting in September has been put on hold. These children were to have been the first cohort to have their progress measured from the start of primary to the end of primary, meaning there would be no statutory assessment for them at the end of KS1. With so much uncertainty this is a sensible, pragmatic decision. I wonder if they will make similar announcements about phonics tests Y4 table tests and the Year 6 SATs tests.

Friday, June 26

THE week ended as it started – advising parents on how they can monitor, advise and guide their children in their use of social media. Of course, the advice concerns their own children’s misuse and how to deal with the misuse by others. The technology has been so helpful over the past few months but it can expose children to harm and exploit their vulnerabilities. It is vital that children feel that they can talk to their parents about these matters and that parents parent.