Amid confusing and contradictory government announcements, Vic Goddard opens his lockdown diary to reveal sleepless nights and a need for assertiveness. Thank goodness some students are back!

 

Monday June 15

It feels like a big step and it’s an emotional day for us all

Public and political opinion over the past few days has been like someone constantly screaming into my ear. Today, however, the responsibility becomes real. Eighty-five of our year 10s come in after two weeks of phoning, planning, making videos and assuring families that we are putting safety and equity first. Today is full of individual meetings with form tutors or heads of year; it feels like a big step and it’s an emotional day for us all.

The government has announced it won’t be offering free school meals over the summer holidays. This latest piece of short-sightedness is hard to understand from a populist government. Watch this space.

 

Tuesday June 16

We replan the moment the guidance changes. Again

That didn’t take long. The government has changed its mind over summer FSM. The bigger question is how we ever thought they should be provided only in term time. The Headteachers’ Roundtable published a blog today in which it says FSM can be offered year-round for £200 more per child. Surely that time has come.

Face-to-face meetings continue. Like most things we’ve been asked to do, the procedures are set up, happen and then we replan the moment the guidance changes. Again.

 

Wednesday June 17

If year 6-into-7 causes anxiety in normal times, imagine September!

Year 10 meetings carry on, and the unwavering support of all our colleagues lets us think about the next challenges. We discuss transition plans at length. If year 6-into-7 causes anxiety in normal times, imagine September! We really want to know what parents/carers want from us to help them and their children.  Decision made: we’ll call them individually before finalising anything else.

The prime minister last week spoke about “a massive catch-up operation”. Halfway through the week and I’m already tiring of “knowledgeable” takes about what we should be doing over the summer. Like many schools, we already have plans for what we want to achieve. Our transition summer school is one of the best-received things we do: it’s kept going despite the government cutting its funding. We think it’s needed this year more than ever.

 

Thursday June 18

A thousand weighty envelopes go out. Sorry, posties.

Home learning pack 3 goes out today. We have some amazing online platforms, but when we audited how many of our pupils have good online access on suitable hardware every day, we found that 20 per cent, more than 200, don’t. I can’t imagine giving a textbook to 80 per cent of our pupils and just saying “do your best” to the rest, so we issue workpacks every three weeks and supply everything, including stationery. This way, everyone can meet the “expectation” and most can access extension online. A thousand weighty envelopes go out. Sorry, posties.

There’s a trust board meeting tonight to go over the next set of plans. Their commitment has been a blessing too.

 

Friday June 19

Why let details get in the way of a good headline?

Various news outlets let us know more details about “catch-up”. This drip-feeding of information creates such anxiety. Families and colleagues instantly want answers – and I am desperate to give them, but it’s impossible.

It’s the missing details that get to me. We will lose our year 7 catch-up funding, and the “tutor fund” will not provide free sessions, but a discount from approved providers. But why let that get in the way of a good headline?

The official announcement hits my inbox at 15.29. Within an hour I have 11 emails from tutoring companies assuring me they are on the approved list and offering me early booking discounts.

This job is hard, and even harder because the best of it is missing. Schools without colleagues and young people are not a huge amount of fun. I’ll hang on to having seen our year 10s this week in the hope of some sleep tonight.