Lockdown diary. A week in the life of…

24 May 2020, 5:00

Following the Prime Minister’s Sunday evening announcement, Ed Vainker’s lockdown diary reveals a steady ship amid stormy seas


Monday, May 11

I confess to not being able to answer

Last night’s announcement by the prime minister ensures questions all day, the first from a key worker parent at 7.30am. I confess to not being able to answer. That becomes a stock phrase as we await detailed guidance.

Mondays and Thursdays, we distribute food – 2,000 meals a week to families from our school, two others and the wider community. It has been a great way to keep track of our pupils and has become an important ritual for our community, but the increasing number of people coming to collect it is a reminder of the massive economic impact the lockdown is having, especially on the many whose work was on zero-hours contracts and who the furlough scheme doesn’t help.


Tuesday, May 12

My two have no interest in being taught by their dad

Tuesday is filming day for Oak National Academy teachers. Fourteen of our teachers are filming 50 lessons a week and, like their counterparts all over the country, are doing it alongside their other responsibilities as volunteers. We have seen healthy competition in recent weeks and production values have shot up. It has been a brilliantly organised collective endeavour across the sector, with organisations offering their time and expertise for free to develop brilliant content.

Some lessons have been watched 50,000 times and as a parent I am not at all surprised. My three weeks of quarantine before Easter were saved by the video lessons provided by our teachers. My two – 9 and 6 – have no interest in being taught by their dad; a teacher explaining things to them works much better in our house.


Wednesday, May 13

Our parents have stepped forward to lead this campaign

Much of today is spent talking to prospective candidates for our new fellowship. We want to support people pursuing headship to do what Rebecca Cramer and I didn’t have the opportunity to do before we started Reach – visit other brilliant schools, understand finances and shadow experienced leaders.

Lockdown hasn’t stopped the education system from looking at opportunities for development, and I chat with two teachers interested in what impact an all-through school and cradle-to-career community hub could have where they live. We intend to work with groups around the country to explore this in the coming years.

In the afternoon, I catch up with our Reach Children’s Hub team to learn about the Citizens UK listening campaign they’ve just completed. As they have with delivering food and connecting with isolated members of our community, our parents have stepped forward to lead this campaign. It’s about returning power to people, and there’s no doubt that is happening in Feltham.


Thursday, May 14

Our collaboration has had more purpose in this period

Feltham’s headteachers have always met regularly but our collaboration has had more purpose in this period. Today, we agree a common framework for communicating with our parents about the next steps to provide clarity. We resolve to come back together on Tuesday to reflect on what our parents are telling us and agree our next steps.

We write to parents, describing measures we will follow and asking whether they will send their children in. It is for each family to decide and we explain that pupils can return throughout June and July.


Friday, May 15

Smaller class sizes need more staff, meaning less time for remote teaching

We add detail about a phased return to school and supporting those at home. Smaller class sizes will need more staff, meaning less time to deliver remote teaching. We will use Oak National Academy’s lessons for those still at home with remote staff focused on feedback and pastoral support. Like all the schools involved, we’ve committed to keep making Oak lessons for all year groups until the end of term.

Later, I teach my health and social care group. I was already eager to teach the public health unit long before all of this, but the second assignment, “Evaluate the effectiveness of a chosen public health campaign”, has made the lessons fascinating. We’ve wrestled with the Imperial College paper, discussed R and compared our approach with South Korea’s. They need to start writing but complain that every day things change.

Try being in charge of a school, I tell them.


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