Emma Marshall opens her lockdown diary to reveal hope for young people’s futures amid testing times for schools

 

Monday, January 25

An exciting ‘first’ to add to my growing list as a school leader

Headlines are dominated by talk of schools not reopening after February half-term. Cue: anxiety from pundits and parents alike. Some anxiety here too as in-school pupils undergo their lateral flow tests. Thankfully, they’re all negative again.

An exciting ‘first’ to add to my growing list as a school leader: a TV interview to discuss our staff ‘Cheer Up videos. We started these in Lockdown 1 to remind our students we were still here for them. In Lockdown 3, they remain a firm favourite.

The trust has started a ‘Lockdown Cup’ to keep us all active despite the January gloom. My walk around the site for that is followed by a chat with a colleague who has been struggling. A reminder that making time for each other is a key part of any wellbeing strategy.

 

Tuesday, January 26

Zoom! And the day is gone

Our testing regime is now embedded, so today is the first day we don’t need to test anyone.  I hope we can stick to it because our ‘volunteers’ are staff and they have day jobs to be getting on with.

Worry grows in the press about lost learning and future impacts. Meanwhile, one of our assistant heads has been meeting with the Inspiring Leaders Trust to discuss career and aspirations mentoring. There is hope, if only we go looking for it!

Where does the time go when you’re in online meetings? Zoom! And the day is gone.

The rain put a stop to my lunchtime Lockdown Cup exercise. I get home and head out for a 1.5km walk before taking my coat off. I won’t be the one to let the side down.

 

Wednesday, January 27

Our Covid-free streak is over

Our Covid-free streak is over, taking us all by surprise. Luckily, there are no bubbles to isolate, but keeping the community in the loop continues to be crucial.

The prime minister announces schools won’t begin reopening until  March 8. Disappointing, but unsurprising. Having a date to work towards is helpful (and a nice change!), but I have so many questions of my own, never mind those coming at me from every angle. And I’ve got to try to make sense of it all for BBC Radio Humberside’s Breakfast Show in the morning!

Before then, there’s our first ever live virtual Year 9 futures evening about options choices for GCSE. No amount of trialling the technology makes launching it any less nerve-wracking, but it all works. Round two tomorrow night.

 

Thursday, January 28

Being a head can be lonely sometimes

Nothing like a bit of performance adrenaline to start the day! Not sure I helped anyone much on the airwaves, but it was great to be able to publicly thank our parents and staff for their hard work and support.

Next, staff absences mean I’m rolling up my sleeves and doing some Covid testing today. I’m in awe at how our volunteers have adapted to it. Back to all negative. A huge relief!

Being a head can be lonely sometimes. A video call with our deputy CEO reminds me of the importance of open dialogue, of being listened to, valued and trusted.

Year 9 futures evening, round 2 is even slicker than last night. I’m really pleased, but as it draws to a close I ponder how much I miss having a theatre full of parents and children.

 

Friday, January 29

For a brief half-hour, everything feels normal

A member of our team turns 50 tomorrow. She’ll have no company but her son, so we make it as special as possible. Balloons, bunting, a “best bits” montage from her ‘Cheer Up’ videos and a surprise SLT rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ leave her evidently touched. The absence of hugs is noticeable but remains unspoken.

Screen-free Friday afternoon! Wellbeing walks around our site lead to laughter and smiles all round in spite of the drizzle. For a brief half-hour, everything feels normal.

Another full week of blended learning comes to an end with welfare calls to every family, home visits to those who need extra support and another round of Covid tests. We smashed it. Two more to go until half-term!