Education view: Teachers and leaders are striving to make this work

Angela Rooke, acting headteacher, Hornsey School for Girls, priority is the safety and wellbeing of

Angela Rooke, acting headteacher, Hornsey School for Girls, priority is the safety and wellbeing of staff and students. - Credit: Archant

I’m delighted to be first in a series of polemics around key issues in education. Bubbles, face coverings, unprecedented, pandemic, Covid-19 – all of these have now entered our vernacular in a manner unthinkable in February.

For us, at the heart of decision making has been managing the safety and wellbeing of staff and students. This may seem obvious, but much of the guidance issued, repeatedly, focuses on an “end” goal with headteachers filling in the blanks. Unhelpfully, the guidance changes frequently and without notice – guidance for reopening schools for instance, came out right at the end of the summer term with no time to action, and has been updated at least seven times since. Over the summer, news item after item focused on the reopening of schools. Much was written about when this would happen, but the how – that was a little more reticent to be shared. In fact, the summer break felt like the sinking feeling one has when you’ve purchased a flat pack shelving unit which you know you need. One opens the instructions to find them written in conversational Swedish. If your conversational Swedish is fluent, you’d be fine. If not, welcome to figuring out how the pieces fit together...

Our parents shared their concerns about re-opening, but they also recognised the unique pressures on the school at this time. In Haringey we have candid professional relationships with our fellow headteachers allowing us to share ideas and develop a consensus about how basic principles would work, amended to the individual needs of our schools.

For us, once the logistics of the year ‘bubbles’ were addressed, an amended curriculum plan put in place, a revised school day created, the whole school zoned and one way, mobile washing stations installed at key points, sanitiser, sanitiser and more sanitiser placed across the site, along with screens and social distancing reminders, we were ready to go! I would love to say this was another day at the office. Nothing could be further from the truth. Luckily, with a pandemic to respond to, with students and staff unable to access the tests they need in a timely fashion, and with the day job sitting alongside the challenges stated above, at least the inspections from Ofsted, JCQ the DfE and Public Health England have the time they deserve in my thinking at present.

Please be mindful that although your child’s school may not have got it right in every case, the leaders and teachers will be trying their hardest to make this work. I for one could not be prouder of our staff and students for how they have come back to us.