I am writing to perhaps correct some of the misconceptions portrayed in your article, from Tuesday 21st July, entitled ‘The teachers who didn’t rise to the challenge should give their pay rise to the unsung heroes’.
I have taught for 23 years and been a Headteacher for 11 and have never had to work harder than we have since the 20th March, when schools were closed nationally. Our school is in the top 10% nationally at GCSE and A level consistently and is graded outstanding by Ofsted
To give you a taste of what this has included I thought I should share the following;
We have spent hundreds of hours working on centred assessed grades for A level and GCSE to ensure that that it was done consistently and fairly to do our students justice. This was a complex and challenging task and each individual grade was signed off by Headteachers personally.
We have contacted every family each 2-3 weeks to check on their pastoral welfare. This was supplemented by pastoral groups meeting online and us evaluating the needs of each of the 1250 students in our care and inviting the highest priority and those at risk into school as vulnerable students. We also gave every student the opportunity to come in for a welfare meeting and walk with their tutor before the end of term.
We set up the school to allow for safe social distancing and for students and staff to return from 1st June. This included teaching staff cleaning, shifting unneeded furniture and painting classrooms at half term.
I led staff induction for two and a half weeks to prepare them to return to school after half term. We then went on to teach every student two weeks of intensive A level lsssons followed by three weeks of GCSE lessons for all Year 10 students. Attendance has never been higher.
We have written risk assessments to adapt to an everchanging DfE expectation and guidance much of which lays the responsibility at the door of each school to make decisions on what is best to do. We often have had to try and make sense of this advice in supporting and reassuring families, students and staff. At no point has any member of staff refused to support what we have been doing.
We have taught live lessons online through video conferencing and provided support for every student to engage them in learning everyday since the start of lockdown.
We have also faced our fair share of challenging situations. One of our students faced an extended period, with both his parents as NHS workers, in Intensive Care. He was left alone, as an only child, so I personally checked on his welfare as he stayed with a family friend waiting for his mother to be discharged from ITU after over 90 days on a ventilator.
I also sat and held the hand of one of our students, aged 18, who took his life during lockdown having not been able to access the right support for his mental health needs. I will never forget taking his friends to his bedside whilst he lay in ITU. Equally the support needed for his 13 year old sister and single mother will called upon every day in the future. I am sure we will be there to love them unconditionally.
I have copied in two of my heroes who have inspired me during the lockdown period. Geoff Barton, from the Association of School and College Leaders, has led with such integrity and wisdom and has been an unrelenting support for schools nationally in making sense of the challenges we have faced. If you need a clear view of what schools have truly done he will give you a very good perspective.
My other hero is my brother who is also a Headteacher. He has led his secondary school alongside 3 primary schools and done so with great energy and passion to simply do what is right for every child. He is married to a wonderful GP who I have every love and respect for in all she has done including her care for care homes locally.
It is likely that the pay increase proposed will be coming from existing school budgets so will not be depriving any other public servants. I feel it is disingenuous to create a false division in this way.
So, in essence, to suggest that teachers have been ‘sunbathing’ since 20th March seems far from the reality for us and many other schools I work closely with. As a reputable paper I would have hoped that there would be a more balanced perspective to recognise this rather than looking to divide those who have all simply tried to do their best.