Coping with school closures in Norfolk
In our latest edition of the distance teaching diaries, Deputy Headteacher, Mr S, opens up about the challenges faced by teachers and school communities during the coronavirus pandemic.
I’m currently a Deputy Headteacher in a junior school in Norfolk. A vast change from my 10 years in London but a welcome one. The school is a 3 form entry school and I currently teach year 3 and have the responsibility of being a DSL.
The week building up to the school closing was draining. The conversations in the playground with parents were difficult. They had lots of questions, rightly so, fueled by fear and a lack of clarity from the government. We had a script to follow, written by our excellent Headteacher, which put the SLT at ease and allowed breathing room for our staff to do their jobs under trying circumstances. We acted as a diversion for panic stricken parents, corralling them back onto the street and their children into the safety of the classroom.
On those last two days of school we were able to organise work for all the pupils, sort out free school meals, agree on sustainable rotas for the staff, create a focused workplace, whilst keeping the children happy, reassured and positive about the situation which was playing out, not only nationally, but closer to home. It was inspiring. The NHS are proving ten fold they are cut from a similar cloth.
Since the school closed I’ve driven over a 100 miles delivering free school meals, stopping for a brief chat from the end of a path or a muffled word through a window.
The majority of parents are happy to see me and are relieved, it seems, to share a few words with a familiar face. I offer words of encouragement and reiterate that they’ll be delivered again the following day. I see if they need anything and will on occasion pay a trip to a local supermarket on their behalf.
I now work for a week then have 3 weeks at home. My working week is enjoyable, if odd. The first day I arrived I was nervous. It was like starting a new job in a new school. It was just so incredibly quiet. Now I can arrive later, at 8am, set up my office with files, for a day dominated by phone calls to vulnerable children and their families. The number of children who attend school varies from 1 to 7 depending on the day. I liaise with the skeleton staff we have on duty and we go through the schedule for the day. I do P.E with Joe and have lunch with the children, 2m apart, and play on the field with them for a good hour. The rest of the day I spend on the phone with the radio gently playing in the background. I’m constantly washing my hands, my knuckles have split, they are dry and cracked.
I’m due to be back in 2 weeks. It’s less daunting and, even though the death toll has risen exponentially since I finished my first week, I am hopeful that the end of this uncertain period in all our lives will come to an end soon. I’m enjoying having free time. I’m playing guitar in the afternoons, the April sun has been beautiful and my family and I have been able to go on quiet countryside walks behind our house. Teachers will always tell you the one thing they don’t have enough of is time, we now have lots. It’s ok to enjoy it and get things done. We’ll be drowning in paper work soon enough!
Mr S has been teaching for 13 years. He started as an NQT in Tottenham many moons ago and has gradually worked his way up to Deputy Headteacher of a junior school. He has been a supply teacher, phase leader and lots of things in between. He hopes that you will find some solace in his account of being a teacher during this unprecedented pandemic.
This article features as part of a special distance teaching blog series by teachers and educational leaders, about life during the current global health crisis. We want to hear about your experience of school closures, distance teaching, wellbeing and everything in between. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to contribute a blog.