Summer priorities and September planning

Niomi Clyde Roberts

Currently Assistant Head, teach a Year 3/4 class of 36 and Curriculum Lead. I'm in the process of writing a book for Bloomsbury - which is due out in January 2021. I'm incredibly passionate about Emotional Intelligence within teaching and leading. I've been lucky enough to win two Nexus Education awards for 'Health and Wellbeing' and more recently 'Improving School Leadership.' 

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How's your last term been?

My last term in my new Assistant Head role has been somewhat different. It has consisted of responding to parents each day, Zooming my class and setting learning (Creative writing, Reading Comprehension, Grammar, Maths and Topic Learning) each week. Just want to say a big thank you to Pobble @HeyPobble and Maths Shed @mathshed for providing brilliant resources for the children and parents to use.

Each week we uploaded all of the children’s fabulous learning to the school website. Alongside providing feedback via email we wanted the children’s learning to be acknowledged by sharing it on our class pages. We also included photographs of the children out and about, taking part in exercise, bike rides and long walks in the countryside in the midst of lockdown. This was important because keeping exercise an integral part of lockdown meant that parents and children stayed as upbeat as they possibly could. 

I have also been working with my head to ensure that staffing worked for our bubble groups and that all classrooms and school systems were safe for when children returned to school. We’ve had a critical workers/vulnerable group open throughout lockdown and this has gradually built up over the last couple of weeks to receive reception, Year 1, Year 6 and Year 4 back in school. Because we are a small school with mixed classes it was important for our Year 4s to return, ready for their transition with their new teacher in Year 5 and 6. It has actually worked really well as each child has had the opportunity to have a talk session with their new teacher and they have felt at ease moving into the Summer holidays, having done this. The children have requested that we do this each year from now on, something we will definitely do as it has had such a positive impact. 

I was able to teach my Year 4s for a couple of weeks, which was lovely as my teaching time with them was cut very short. My Year 3s will be returning to my class as Year 4s in September and I will welcome the Year 2s as new Year 3s. 

We have implemented staggered start and finish times and have put in place a one way entrance and exit system, which helps our parents and children remain safe at the beginning and end of the day. We have also split our playground and playing field into four sections to make sure that the current bubbles don’t mix during break and lunch times.

What priorities should teachers and school leaders have over the Summer holiday?

Other than ensuring that children with safeguarding concerns are safe and services are aware of any ongoing situations, all leaders and teachers need to have a WELL-EARNED REST. This is so important, as they need to be on top form for September because we really don’t know what changes are yet to unfold. People in leadership have worked so hard to ensure that all the new rules and regulations are in place and that staffing worked for specific bubbles. I know it has been a complete headache for some schools. We need to look after the mental health of our leaders and teachers, as we need to be ready to respond to the needs of the children in September. 

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

We will be meeting the children where they are. We have a very strong pastoral team in place, one for KS1 and another for KS2. So we have support as and when needed, a fluid approach to fit the needs of the children and in some cases, the adults. 

Our focus will of course be checking progress and analysing what the children know and do not know, this is important, but for me the most important task in hand is ensuring that all children return to school and are relaxed/happy in their classrooms. As well as supporting the children we will be ensuring the parents are happy too as plenty of them will be anxious and worried in the early days of September. Children are resilient but I have to say this lockdown has been a rollercoaster of events for everyone involved and so even as an adult it has been hard at times. It’s important to remember that children would have witnessed how their parents have been feeling, as children seem to notice everything. They would have taken on these worries and internalised them in some cases. 

For September we have staggered break times and are treating KS1 and KS2 as separate bubbles. All children will be eating their lunch in their classrooms to avoid mixing too. All sports clubs have been cancelled for the time being, as well as individual music lessons. 

On a positive note it does mean that school life will be calmer for a term or two, before we start reintroducing extra clubs, music lessons and morning tuition. It does mean we can focus all our attention on the children and how they are coping with the transition back into the classroom and school life.

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